When All Else Fails
by Terry Volkirch
Chapter 1: Introduction
*** Back Then ***
"You want me to babysit a book?!" I whined to my stuffy Aunt Florence. "You gotta be kidding me!"
"It's not babysitting. It's yours to keep and pass on to your children. It's a family heirloom. Now be a good boy and take it."
My aunt sat demurely on the dark green couch next to my mom and held the large book out to me with both hands. Her blue-gray eyes glinted like steel. Her jaw was set. I turned briefly to my mom for help but she just gave me a hopeful, pleading look. What else could I do. I took it.
Now technically, I was a boy, but I had just had my 13th birthday and I didn't like being called a boy. Even though I was the third shortest guy in my junior high school and looked a lot younger than I was, I had to correct something.
"I'm not a boy," I huffed. "I'm a teenager."
I didn't wait for a reaction. I bolted for the stairway in the middle of the house and raced up to my bedroom with my gift. It was a warm spring Saturday afternoon in the Pacific Northwest, where nice spring days are somewhat rare. I should be outside playing hide-and-go-seek or something. Instead I went back to hide in my room.
There wasn't much to do in my little square bedroom, with it's sky blue walls and dark blue-green curtains, but I found some comfort there. I had a very small yellow television set that got a fair amount of use. It sat on my bland dresser and was plastered with cartoon stickers to show my taste in programs. I also had a large wooden bookshelf with rows of science fiction and fantasy books. I especially liked the volumes of collected short stories. I could devour a story in a short time and go on to the next. The variety fed my imagination and gave my mind a much needed break from the real world. In the corner opposite from my bed was a small varnished maple desk with an old computer on it. The rest of the space was used to store knickknacks from my various collections. I had a wall shelf full of beautiful tropical shells that were very good at gathering dust. I was quite a pack rat but I accumulated far too much stuff. There was no way I could fully appreciate it all. I added one thing after another and then ignored them. I think I just collected things to pass the time. If I wasn't reading, collecting or watching TV, I tended to dwell on my problems.
I dropped my latest problem on my twin bed and stood there, glaring at it. It was a very large, musty old book, with gold-edged pages and a worn brown leather cover. It looked like a family bible. It was hideous. I couldn't let any of my friends see it. That was certain. They'd never let me hear the end of it. So there was only thing left to do - stuff it in the back of my closet.
"You don't want to do that Terry," a strange voice suddenly said, scaring the hell out of me.
The voice reverberated slightly, like a super villain in a bad science fiction movie, but in spite of the mechanical tone, it sounded mostly like a teenage girl - and it came from the direction of the book.
"No way," I gasped.
*** And Now ***
So it began many years ago - never mind exactly how many. I'm an old woman now, writing my story since I've no one to tell it to. I have no children and the few friends I had are long dead.
It'd be nice to pass my story along to my friends' grandchildren but I'm sure they all think I'm crazy. The few times I've seen the kids they either ignored me or humored me. Such is the fate of the elderly in this country. What a shame.
I'll just write down my story and post it on the Internet like all the other crazy people do. Maybe someday, before I die, someone will be interested in what I have to say and contact me. I'm not sure what I'll do otherwise.
*** Then ***
The two women sat on the couch and watched the ceiling, waiting until they heard footsteps in the room above them.
"Do you think it's safe to give it to him?" Gail asked her sister.
Florence nodded and smiled. "Don't worry. The book won't affect someone without that person's permission. It's very powerful but also very moral and ethical."
Gail still wasn't certain. Her concern clearly showed on her face.
"I turned out okay, didn't I?" Florence asked with a coy smile.
Both women looked at each other for a few seconds before they broke into laughter.
"You were such a brat!" Gail shrieked.
"And I turned my life around. The book turned my life around. I shudder to think how I would've turned out without it.
"Do you think it'll help Terry? He's so painfully shy, and I know he's been depressed about it. He has so few friends."
"I'm sure it'll help," Florence smiled as she patted her sister's hand.
Gail tried to raise Terry the best she could. It wasn't easy as a single mother. She worked hard and didn't have much free time. Relating to him was next to impossible too. He's so quiet and independent, and his only hobbies involved collecting something or other. All she she could think to do was buy him stamps, coins or mineral specimens. It wasn't much but at least it seemed to bring him a little happiness.
Another subject often occupied her thoughts was one that always made her sigh. Maybe what Terry really needed was a male role model - someone who would take him places and also encourage him to get out and do things on his own. Unfortunately, Gail hadn't had any men in her life for a very long time. Terry's father was in and out of her life like a thunderstorm. Now it was just her and her son.
Terry seemed a bit sensitive for a boy. Perhaps it was natural but she didn't think so. All he could learn from her was how to be feminine, not to mention lonely. Like mother, like son. So out of desperation she talked to her sister, who had some help in the form of a unique book.
Florence had no children of her own. She'd never been married. She did have lots of friends though, as well as several love interests over the years. The woman was never lonely. The book must have somehow helped her to become so well-adjusted and happy because she was never that way before she got it.
Gail was always envious of her and guilty about being envious. She dearly loved her sister. It was clear that Florence needed the book more than anyone else in the family. She shook her head when she thought back to how rebellious and angry her sister had been. That book really must have done wonders after their crazy aunt Tilda passed it on.
Neither Florence nor Tilda ever explained exactly how the book helped them, only that it seemed to contain all the wisdom of the ages and yet was still able to make it understandable and somehow entertaining to a troubled teen. When pressed for details, they'd just sigh with contentment and say something like, "You wouldn't believe me if I told you".
* * * * *
Terry sat on his bed next to the book, just like she told him to. He faced straight ahead but watched his new friend out of the corner of his eye. He was afraid to look directly at her.
His perception of her was rapidly changing. She hadn't said much so far but it was enough to realize she meant him no harm. Besides, his aunt wouldn't give him something dangerous. That didn't stop the anxiety though. The voice had a friendly tone to it but it meant business.
It was odd but she even started to look different. She was obviously magical and now she seemed to blend well with the comforter on the bed. The various shades of dark blue with little white stars made him think of a glittering magical aura instead of the night sky. The aura surrounded the book and added to her presence.
Even though she was a book, he couldn't call her an "it". She sounded too human for that. It's too bad she wasn't a real girl. He often fantasized about having a girlfriend.
Just my luck, he thought. I don't get a girlfriend. I get a book instead.
"I heard that," said the book. "I can hear your thoughts." Then she let out a long, low whistle. "Wow. You're one really screwed up little pup."
"Huh? Oh. Yeah."
Terry had to agree with her. He felt screwed up, though he couldn't say exactly why. He felt empty, like he was living someone else's life. He was just a passenger in his body and life was something to be watched passing by. All he cared to do was pluck out colorful and interesting bits and pieces and file them away in his collections. All the coins, stamps, shells and other things were hastily grabbed souvenirs of a monotonous journey. There were no real destinations, only very brief layovers among shops full of tantalizing trinkets, with the occasional passenger showing up or leaving. It was one lonely, pathetic existence.
"Hey! Enough feeling sorry for yourself. That's no way to live," said the book.
That broke Terry out of his funk, though he still remained firmly in shy mode. It was something he did very well. There were a million questions to ask. If only he could ask just one. That would be a good start.
"Got questions?" teased the book. She was trying to draw him out into a conversation. She couldn't get anywhere if she couldn't get him to open up to her.
"Uh... yeah," Terry grunted.
"Well? Are you gonna ask one? Your thoughts are so muddled, but I know you have a lot of questions."
She was right, but the questions in Terry's mind weren't fighting for dominance. It wasn't like he was having trouble choosing the most worthy. Instead, they fidgeted and slumped like students trying to will themselves invisible so they wouldn't be called on by the teacher. They were all shy, just like him.
After several awkward minutes of silence, the book became a wee bit impatient. She'd had no other choice but be patient most of her life. She had to wait for opportunities to help and then wait for her owner to read the pages she prepared, and she had to wait long periods between owners. Being impatient was uncharacteristic of her but she felt it was called for in this case.
"So ask a question already!"
The outburst startled Terry. He slid off the edge of his bed, landing painfully on his butt.
The book had a good long laugh at that, earning a glare from him at first, but he soon saw the humor in it and joined her.
When the laughter ran its course, Terry slid back up onto his bed. Silence threatened again but then something miraculous happened. He spoke.
"Thanks a lot you... you...," he stuttered. It was a start. He was trying to be playful and think of a good but harmless insult. He couldn't think of any names to call her. What kind of names could you call a book? Then he realized he didn't know her name. He couldn't keep calling her "Book". That just didn't sound right.
"Hey. What's your name?" he blurted out.
"A question! You asked a question!!" squealed the book. Then she went silent. In all her centuries of enchantment, she'd never been asked that one question. She didn't have a name or title. Normally she wouldn't need one when dealing with her keeper. She'd use magic writing in her blank pages to communicate. She'd read thoughts and respond to them. It was that simple.
Not too long ago, it would've been dangerous to talk out loud. People didn't handle magic very well. If they heard her talking they'd likely destroy her and kill whomever she talked to. It wasn't a pleasant thought.
Terry was a special case. He needed lots of conversation to draw him out of his shell. Her voice was a little rusty - literally - and her social skills weren't that sharp, but she would quickly improve with practice, as would Terry.
Not having a name probably shouldn't have bothered her. She wasn't human. She was only a book. Books shouldn't have feelings. Of course most books didn't talk and think either. She wasn't just a book. She was much more.
Being nameless suddenly did bother her - a lot. Here she was thinking her new owner was a lonely mess and now she realized her existence - her life - wasn't much to look at. She'd had some fun and helped several people, but it was only one at a time, with many years of neglect in between.
"Well? Are you going to tell me your name?" Terry had to remind her.
"I... I don't have a name," she finally replied. Then she broke down and cried.
This was an uncomfortable turn of events to say the least. She was just a book but she was crying. Terry wasn't sure how to console a person, let alone a book, but he had to try something.
"Don't be sad. Please don't cry."
He patted the book but nothing seemed to help. It was frustrating. He wanted to hug her but he wasn't sure how. He liked hugs. They always helped him when he was sad. Finally he just reached around her and rested his left cheek on her cover, waiting for her to stop.
She eventually ran down to occasional sobs. The hugging did help. She appreciated the effort, awkward as it was. Then she felt something odd. A lone tear dripped on her. Now he was crying.
"Terry? Are you okay?"
"Ummm... yeah. You got me a little sad too I guess," he replied with a blush as he sat up.
"I'm sorry," said the book. "I'm supposed to be helping you, not making you cry."
"It's okay. Everyone needs a name."
Terry thought of his own name and smiled. It was really a nickname but he rather liked it. Terence sounded too formal. Then it sunk in that she mentioned something about helping him. Florence never said anything about that. He thought the book was just something new to collect. That started him wondering about what else the book could do besides talk.
Terry's imagination started running wild. Who knows what a magic book could do! Maybe it could create stories that he could jump into. He could become a character and have all sorts of adventure. Killing dragons or aliens didn't seem all that appealing, besides being rather cliché, but who said adventure had to be violent. Exploring a giant cave with glowing stalactites to light the way would be nice. He could become a dolphin and dive down to visit his friends in an underwater city. That would be nice too. He started getting carried away but he reminded himself that his new friend had a problem and was very sad. That finally sobered him.
The book had stopped crying and was listening to her owner's thoughts. He seemed rather effeminate she realized. She wasn't sure how she was going to help him yet but his feminine nature started giving her some ideas. In the meantime, she had a distraction to deal with.
"So do you have any names you like?" he suddenly asked. "Maybe we can think of a name for you."
"Really? That would be so nice. I know lots of names, but it doesn't feel right naming myself. You didn't name yourself, did you?"
"My mother did," Terry said absently. He was already hard at work thinking of a name. He was very creative and imaginative, and loved to think of names.
After more than 30 minutes, it was apparent that the two of them needed help. No common girl's name would do. The book was too rare and special for most names so Terry didn't dare suggest any common names. Rare and beautiful names were hard to come by though. He thought of a couple like Titania and Ariel that he saw in an astronomy book. They were the names of moons of Uranus that were taken from mythology and seemed different enough, but the book didn't like those.
"It's hopeless," the book sniffled. Terry thought she'd be pouting if she had a face.
"Don't give up...," he almost called her Book but caught himself. "Maybe my mom can help. She named me. Maybe she can think of a name for you too."
That led to a brief discussion about keeping secrets. The book still had to be careful. Even in the more enlightened modern world, there were still dangers lurking. She might not be destroyed but some unscrupulous person could be tempted to steal her, and Terry might be harmed by the thief. It's best to keep her secret only among trusted family members, and best not to divulge too much even to them.
* * * * *
Terry slunk downstairs into the kitchen to find his mom sitting by herself at the small square table in the corner, sipping coffee and reading the newspaper. She looked up and studied him a bit, her eyes asking difficult questions that she still didn't quite have the nerve to ask.
"Where's Aunt Florence?" he asked.
"She went home a few minutes ago. She didn't want to interfere with you-know-who. She thought it best to leave you two to get to know each other."
"Oh. I understand. I think."
"So how's it coming?" Gail started with the easy questions.
"Not so good," he muttered. "We need some help."
"Well, she does."
"The book! It's a she. It has a girl's voice anyway."
"Really?" Gail said with a smirk.
"Sorry," she said, trying to keep a serious face. "I'm just surprised. I didn't realize it could talk. Florence never mentioned that. So what's the problem?"
Terry told her about the book never having been named and now wanting one. Everyone had always just referred to her and thought of her as "The Book". Oddly enough, the subject of a name never came up until now.
Gail agreed that no common name would do. The book deserved something beautiful and unique. She also thought it would be a bit difficult naming it when she knew so little about it. What do you name a talking book?
"I know," she said as she got up. "I'll do some research online. It might take awhile so don't wait. Important things should never be rushed. It took me several days to think of a name for you."
"Thanks mom. I love you." He ran over to hug her and ran back upstairs, leaving his mom standing in the kitchen with a whimsical smile on her face. Terry's show of affection made her forget all about the slight uneasiness she'd been feeling about the book.
Chapter 2: Name
My mother loves me. She works hard to keep me warm, well fed and happy. She worries about me and keeps me safe. Now she's trying very hard to find a name for my book, all because she loves me.
Motherly love is probably the purest form of love. It's hard to tell without experiencing all forms but it has to rank near the top. It's virtually unconditional. It blinds mothers to bad children. It's instrumental in keeping the human race going - the urge to procreate is very strong and mothers will kill to protect their babies. It also sometimes makes mothers work too hard. They sacrifice their own happiness for their children. Gail is like that now.
Gail sits on a stiff wooden chair in front of small computer desk in the dining room, typing on the keyboard and clicking the mouse button of her old computer. She'll gladly spend days searching for a name to make her son happy.
Web pages blur on the screen from rapid-fire mouse clicks. Nothing stands out as a suitable name. Books have titles but titles depend on the story written inside. This book's story changes with every owner, and the current story has barely begun. Whatever name is used would have to transcend the book's history.
Baby name web sites and types of magic books are no help. Out of desperation, she even tries characters in fantasy novels, but the names are either simple and common or have too many syllables. Fantasy authors obviously have a hard time coming up with names, Gail mused.
* * * * *
Terry slowly scuffed his feet all the way back to his bedroom and gave his new friend a sad smile.
"Well?" the book chirped. "Did ya get a name for me?"
"It's gonna take my mom some time. Sorry. She said it took her several days to think of a name for me, but don't worry. We'll get a name for you."
"Thanks. This means a lot to me."
She still thought it was odd that a name should matter after all these years. It could have something to do with her new owner. She never really needed a name until she started talking so much with Terry. Conversations could prove to be awkward without names. Terry couldn't keep getting her attention by saying "Hey you! Book!"
There was something more to it though. She was becoming more and more human over time. She had to relate to people - to feel what they felt so she could think of the best way to help them. Getting a name was like a rite of passage for her. It was a big step on her path to humanity.
When she was first created by a sorceress, she didn't think about names. She never knew the name of the woman who'd created her. All she knew was that she was given to one of Terry's ancestors and passed down the generations to those who needed her. She was made to help people.
Her early help was fairly simple. She'd sense simple thoughts and work her magic or write suggestions in her blank pages for her owner to read. It worked well for the first several centuries. As time wore on, helping people got progressively more complicated as life got more complicated.
It's been rare since she could help with crops or livestock. None of her recent owners were farmers or ranchers. Forecasting the weather used to be important but it's been taken over by people - even though they still aren't nearly as accurate as she could be, especially since she could cheat and make the weather change with her magic. Now she has to compete with science and technology. People rely on motorized vehicles, computers and modern medicine for virtually everything that she used to help with, leaving her to deal with emotional problems.
She'd been instilled with a strong sense of good and justice but nothing is black and white when it comes to emotion. No law can be absolute when exceptions abound. Hopefully, becoming more human would help her from being too rational. No one is entirely rational. They don't need or want entirely rational solutions to their problems. Emotion is as important as logic in helping people.
Sometimes she'd skirted the edge and pushed her owners. People resisted change but she was usually a good judge of what they needed. It would be so easy to go a step further and go right to the final result she thought was necessary, but then the person might resent it. People get more satisfaction and fulfillment when they work at something anyway.
She'd been totally lost in thought and completely forgot about Terry when he surprised her yet again.
"So what do you do for fun?" he asked.
"Huh? Hey!" the book said laughingly. "You asked another question. You're getting good at it."
Dang, she thought. He does ask good questions, but he's helping me much more than I'm helping him. He needs to take better care of himself. Maybe I should start with that.
"I have fun helping people," she finally answered. "Now it's my turn to ask a question. What things do you like best about yourself?"
Oh no, he gulped, thinking to himself. She's playing the psychologist. I was hoping for a more casual friendship.
Whenever he started sorting out his feelings, Terry easily became confused, frustrated and depressed, roughly in that order. Trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life was too painful. He felt a lot of pressure to conform but that rarely brought him happiness. He wanted to be different somehow. He wanted to be an individual. A war raged inside him between being an individual and conforming to be accepted.
It would be nice to have a girlfriend. Everyone needed love and acceptance. If only the price wasn't so high. If only he didn't have to be someone he hated to be.
At least he had his imagination. He told his new friend that was one thing he really liked about himself. He could always create an inner world where everything worked out, just like it did in all the romantic comedy movies he liked so much.
The book saw Terry was struggling but pressed for more things that he liked about himself. She could relate to having a good imagination. It was an important quality in her line of work, but she needed more to work with, and he needed to think more about what he liked about himself and less about what he didn't like.
Terry still wouldn't go where he needed to go to find his true self. It was too traumatic. Instead he wandered around looking for something else and realized that he liked his intelligence in spite of being ostracized for it. His teachers and classmates seem to recognize it in him before he saw it himself. He was thought of as a straight-A student before he started applying himself and got good grades. He coasted through elementary school until 6th grade, when he thought he should try harder for the real world. His teachers initially thought it was a fluke. They put him in a very easy junior high school math class in spite of the fact that he raised his grade from a C to an A- during the second semester of 6th grade. Luckily his math teacher saw his potential and jumped him three levels to algebra. Terry's classmates were already calling him a "Brain" by this point. He was stuck so he figured he may as well work hard and prove himself. Labels can be cruel but learning to develop his potential was important.
The book stopped him at this point. He was burning out trying to avoid dealing with deeper issues. For now, having two attributes that he liked about himself was enough. It was interesting to her that he didn't mention any physical qualities so far. She thought he had lovely dark brown hair and his eyes were interesting with bits of blue, gray, green and brown. She was a little disappointed but she let it go.
The psychology session lasted until dinner time - a perfect excuse for a break. Terry ran downstairs. He was famished. All that thinking seemed to work up an appetite. Actually, he had a very fast metabolism so he always had a very healthy appetite. He ate large amounts very often and yet was still very slender.
He met up with his mom who had somehow pulled herself away from the computer to fry some hamburgers - she had to feed her growing boy after all. The gnawing hunger pangs were enough of a distraction that he didn't think to ask about anything except dinner.
It smelled wonderful. He sat down at the kitchen table and was soon digging into two fat, juicy hamburgers on jumbo sesame seed buns that overflowed with ketchup, lettuce, onion, tomato and sweet pickles. When the corners of his mouth were smeared with ketchup and he eventually started to feel full, he thought to ask his mother how the name search was going.
"Not so good," Gail said, repeating Terry's earlier response. "We need some help."
"We?" Terry was puzzled.
"The computer and I," she smiled.
"Oh. Right. Very good mom."
Joking aside, she confessed she really was having trouble. She needed to learn more about the book if she was to produce a good fitting name.
"There isn't much more to tell. She can be a bit playful. She's always nice. I can also tell she's older and wiser than she sounds. I think she's trying to appear to sound like a teenage girl to help me relate to her."
"Really?" Gail raised her eyebrows. "That sounds like quite an astute observation young man. I'm impressed."
Terry blushed at the flattery and continued. "Her voice was a little strange when she first started talking but it's gotten smoother. It's pretty much all girl now. I really like it."
* * * * *
Terry ran back upstairs to his new friend. That made Gail smile. The more she thought about it, the more she liked the idea of the book helping her son. He was off to a good start. He seemed much more social tonight. That's for sure. She found out much more about the book from him. Perhaps now she could find a name for it.
The hopeful helpful mom once again sat in front of the computer and brought up an Internet search page. She pecked at the keyboard, entering key phrases like "beautiful voice". Before long, she had a long list of web sites, and it wasn't long before she homed in on an interesting name. It was Calliope, the Greek muse of epic poetry and eloquence. The name itself meant "beautiful voice". It seemed to be a perfect fit! The book was like a muse for her son, inspiring him to come out of his shell.
So far, Gail couldn't bring herself to think of the book as a she, but maybe a name would help. As she walked upstairs to share the new name, she hoped she'd get a chance to talk with it and at least thank it for helping Terry, but she'd respect its wishes if it remained silent - as long as it continued to be helpful.
* * * * *
The book gave Terry some time off for good behavior. He'd worked hard enough before dinner so she let him do some reading while she piggybacked along, listening to his thoughts about a short fantasy story.
In the story, a poor but brave young wizard named Leewin went out into the world to seek his fortune. Virtually every encounter led to hostility, from an old beggar woman's tongue lashing because he didn't have anything to give her to being called outside an inn to fight because he didn't laugh at a drunken brawler's bad jokes.
The young lad almost felt cursed. Sure he was a bit plain looking, but he wasn't hideous or anything, and he always tried be nice and polite. There was no excuse to treat him so badly. All the negativity he was experiencing seemed unnatural. It was as if magic was working against him. He'd spent all of his fairly short life learning the arcane arts so he tended to look at things from a magical perspective.
After bending over backwards to placate the insulted brawler with belated compliments, the wizard made arrangements with the owner of the inn to entertain in exchange for temporary room and board. He even managed to do it without any hint of violence. He stood in the center of large room with a vaulted ceiling and began fire juggling. It was a common trick but he dressed it up with an illusion that made his hair appear to catch fire, and he ended the act by tossing the half dozen tiny fireballs high in the air and having them fall into his mouth, followed by a huge billowing jet of steam shooting 10 feet up into the air like a geyser.
There were few people in the inn besides the old man who owned it, as it was only late afternoon, but most of them, including the drunk, enjoyed the free show. One person even clapped and cheered.
Leewin scanned all the faces to gauge their reaction, hoping to repeat with a longer version of his act later in the evening after his dinner. He liked most of what he saw except for two men leaning back against the bar. They both sneered at him for some unknown reason. The negativity continued even then. Luckily, the owner nodded appreciatively and agreed to let him stay the next three nights. He thanked the old man and retired to his room to prepare for the impending entertainment he promised.
The troubled young wizard tried to shake off the dark events of the day. He tried distracting himself with variations on his act, including a flashy magical change of costume from his brown tunic and leggings to a long black coat. Nothing worked though. What if magic was the cause of his recent spate of problems? If that was the case, casting spells wouldn't be worth a life of misery.
Leewin couldn't accept that line of thought. He'd never give up magic. He worked too hard at it and it meant too much to him. If magic could produce such an effect, then who's to say it couldn't counter it or produce an opposite result.
Perhaps a new spell was in order. That idea brightened the young man's mood. He poured himself into the task and after an hour of hard work, believed he knew what to do. He still had another hour or so before the show so he lit a candle and began the creative visualization that would begin the spell. He entered a trance and let his mind flow freely to come up with a means to counter or at least minimize the hostility he'd been experiencing since he left home. He'd accept whatever solution came to him.
A bright purple light began to shine through the darkness that started his mental journey. The light flowed in and around his body, slowly becoming a lighter shade. It turned into lavender and ended up a bright shade of pink. Suddenly there were people everywhere in his vision. Everywhere he looked, he only saw friendly smiles looking back at him. It worked! The spell worked! It needed a little firming up to maintain it as the trance ended and then it was done.
Leewin opened his eyes and felt quite strange. Normally, he'd be very relaxed and feel a little sleepy. He'd slowly stand up, stretch and finally liven up after a few minutes. Now, after this spell, he was brimming with energy and his body felt different. He tried to stand up and had a little trouble with his balance. That's when he finally noticed that he was no longer a he. The spell had changed him into a beautiful young woman. He'd no longer have to worry about brawling with drunks. He'd only have to worry about fending off their overly friendly hands.
Much to the book's chagrin, the story was interrupted by a knock at Terry's bedroom door, followed by his mother's voice. The book wanted to hear more of the story because of the effect it was having on Terry. He had a dreamy look in his eyes and let out a big sigh as he got up to open his door.
"Special delivery for Terry and his magic book!" Gail called through the door.
Terry quickly pulled his door open and ushered his mother inside.
"Well? What is it?" he sputtered. The story he'd been reading was filed in a special place in his memory and now anticipation hung heavy in the air.
"How does Calliope sound?" Gail asked.
"Calliope? That's an odd name."
"Or Callie for short. Calliope was a Greek Muse. Her name means 'beautiful voice'."
Terry had heard of muses since he read so much. That part fit the book since she seemed to be trying to inspire him to make a better life for himself. The meaning of the name matched too. He thought she had a beautiful voice. The nickname Callie was cute so he decided that he approved.
"Yeah. I like it. What about you?" he turned and asked the book.
There was no answer so he moved closer and touched his friend to show he was talking to her.
The book didn't strike him as being shy but she wasn't talking. Then he thought about how she could write on her pages. He opened the front cover and saw some writing on the first page. It read,
"Yes! Yes! Yes! I love it! Please call me Callie, and thank your mother for me."
It continued a little farther down the page.
"Oh! Sorry! I guess I can only speak to you. It must be some sort of magical bonding or something."
Terry repeated what he'd read, thanking his mother for Callie.
Gail was a little disappointed she couldn't hear the book's voice, but she was happy for both of them.
"You're welcome Callie," she said. Then she pulled the bedroom door closed behind her and went downstairs to bask in the glow of her good deed.
* * * * *
"There!" blurted Callie. "I can talk again. That was odd. I didn't know I couldn't talk to anyone but you."
"Well at least you could still communicate with your writing."
"It seems like my creator thought of everything."
That got Terry curious about Callie's past but she beat him to it. Before he could ask, she started talking about the sorceress who made her. It wasn't much but she felt a growing need to share more of herself. She also talked about her powers so Terry knew what sort of things to expect in the future. She was magically prohibited from giving specifics about how she helped others in the past (because of the magic bond she shared with her owners), but she could talk in generalities.
Some of what she was capable of included enlargement and shrinkage of living things, weather control and inducement of lucid dreams. Recently she'd been using lucid dreams almost exclusively. She found them to work very well for problem solving since virtually anything could be explored with no risk. The person would know they were dreaming and Callie could help them control everything that happened. It was perfect for the emotional challenges of the modern world. It also worked well because it allowed her owners to go about their usual business during the day.
She also casually mentioned that she could shapeshift all or part of any living thing. She likened her power to Leewin's change in the story Terry had started earlier in the evening. It was nearly his bedtime and she wanted to plant a seed to inspire a certain type of dream. She knew from his thoughts that it was working.
Chapter 3: Change
Terry crawled into bed and was fast asleep. It was an emotionally exhausting day. About 90 minutes later he entered REM sleep and there was Callie. She didn't need sleep, so she was there, waiting for him. She'd given him the gift of lucid dreaming and used her power to create a little forest.
"Hiya Terry!" she shouted from high in a nearby maple tree. In the dream, she took the form of a beautiful teenage girl with blue eyes and short, spiky blonde hair. She wore a pink tee shirt and blue jeans.
Down below her on the ground, Terry stood wearing his usual blue tee shirt and blue jeans. Blue was his favorite color, partially because it was also his mother's favorite and partially because it often matched his mood.
"Callie? Is that you? It is! Wow. Look at you. You look great."
Callie blushed but recovered nicely. "Thanks Sport. Wanna come up and join me?" A small plain tree house suddenly appeared between them and she started climbing down to enter it.
"Sport? I'm not a sport," Terry groused as he started climbing.
"Oh? What are you then?" she said with a teasing tone.
"I'll show you in a minute," he said with a glint in his eye.
The race was on. He climbed up after Callie while she tried to get to the safety of the tree house. Gravity was on her side and she made it shortly before Terry swung himself up and through the open door.
When he got inside he was surprised that the blonde girl was gone. In her place was Callie the book, lying in the middle of the floor.
"Dang. What happened to you? Why are you a book again?"
"I honestly don't know what happened," Callie gasped with shock. "I've never been human before. I've never interacted at all in dreams, not even as a book."
"Well you're interacting now. Are you ticklish?"
Terry bent down and tried tickling her cover. That was his plan. He wanted to play the dreaded Tickle Monster. She didn't feel a thing but that didn't spoil her naturally good mood.
"Hey! You sure are asking a lot of questions now. Keep it up and I'll run out of answers."
They both laughed but Terry wouldn't be distracted from what happened. He thought it might be important so he encouraged her to talk about it.
"It all seemed so natural," Callie said softly. "It felt like I'd always been human. I didn't remember that it's never happened before."
Normally she acted as a distant observer. She could change things in the dreams but she couldn't interact herself. She didn't really want to interact. It wouldn't have felt right. She was just an inanimate object.
Now everything was different. She had name, a voice and emotion, and, for a brief time, a dream body. She was evolving. She was becoming a girl. At the same time, she was trying to help Terry do the same thing - the exact same thing though he didn't know it yet. It was all so confusing and upsetting. She was showing Terry the way but what would happen after he no longer needed her help? Would she revert to her previous self? Could she revert? Could she be happy as a book after getting a taste of being human? She'd always been happy helping people but she didn't know how she could help others when she had major issues of her own.
Terry added up all of Callie's changes and came to some of the same conclusions. She was becoming more human, and it was clear that she was changing because he needed it. He needed her to become a girl, not just a talking book. His shyness was crippling. He had almost no social skills. Callie wasn't exactly a social butterfly either but she was learning quickly and pulling him along behind.
He wondered if Callie's creator, the nameless sorceress, had meant for this to happen. Did she know this would happen or even if it could happen? Change was inevitable. That much was certain. Things either progress or they regress, and he very much liked the way things were progressing so far.
The only thing Terry didn't realize was exactly how Callie was helping him. He still denied his true self so all he saw were the personality changes. He didn't notice that his hair was now short, spiky and blonde. It looked exactly the same as hers did.
Callie noticed. She couldn't "see" with eyes but she could sense colors and shapes around her. Her inner self smiled, especially since she had nothing to do with the change. Terry had made it himself without conscious thought. In the Land of Dreams, the subconscious is Queen.
The two friends discussed Callie's changes for the rest of the dream. Callie didn't bring up Terry's new hair style, and he didn't notice he had one. They just agreed that Callie was changing for the better and hoped it would continue.
* * * * *
The bright light of another beautiful spring morning filtered through the dark curtains in Terry's bedroom, reminding him of one of his few passions that didn't involve collecting something. He loved the outdoors. He loved being outside, especially in the woods near his home. He loved breathing in the fresh air, communing with nature, and he loved climbing trees. There was an added benefit that he didn't normally think about too. It didn't require social skills.
Callie could feel the pull on her young friend. She knew he'd be outside now if it wasn't for her. What little of a life he had might be in jeopardy if he stayed inside to be with her all the time. That just wouldn't do so she magically replicated the sound of fingernails scraping a blackboard to get him outside. She recalled a memory of that sound and knew it would get rid of him. He'd been cooped up all day yesterday. It was time to get out and get some exercise.
So Terry spent some quality time outdoors, walking through the woods for several hours, just enjoying the sounds of nature. He went back home for lunch and a quick check on Callie. Then he was out again, this time with his neighbor, playing catch with a small football until dinner time.
He stayed inside after eating. There wasn't anything worth watching on television but that didn't stop him from half watching it with his mother. Sitting with her and vegetating helped dull his usual anxiety about school. He often dwelled on school late Sunday.
His junior high reminded him more of a prison than a school. It even sort of looked like a prison from the outside. From the back, it was one large rectangular building with bland colors and small windows. He loved to learn but having to go to that particular school was a punishment. It probably would've been less stressful if he'd walked the much longer, safer way, but he never thought to do that. Instead he took a pipeline road and trails through some woods that led to the far playing field. He had to climb steps full of unsavory students to reach the school grounds. Smokers, stoners and bullies ruled those steps. It also would've been nice if he had a school friend to walk with. Too bad his neighbor friends were all younger or went to a private school.
Once inside the school, it wasn't much better. The boys restroom was full of graffiti, garbage and the smell of cigarette smoke. More of those same unsavory students hung out in the hallway and in the restrooms. The only safe places were in the classrooms where he could shine as a student and be ridiculed for it. School was a battleground for the war between Terry's curiosity and his survival instinct.
Now that he had Callie, the idea of going back to school tomorrow was worse than ever. He'd spent most of the day away from her and now he'd have to do it again for the next five days. Television wasn't distracting enough and his mother wasn't very good company since she'd fallen asleep on the couch. After watching one show, he had enough. He missed Callie anyway so he woke his mother up to say goodnight and trudged upstairs.
Callie was vegetating a little herself when Terry walked in. There wasn't much for her to do when he was away. She couldn't sleep and couldn't watch her new owner from afar. All she could do was clear her mind. It was a form of meditation that came in handy for passing the time when she wasn't being used.
This time when she tried to clear her mind, she had a lot of trouble. Images of herself as a girl kept distracting and teasing her. She felt herself longing to be a girl again and couldn't wait for more lucid dream sessions. She was actually daydreaming when Terry interrupted.
"Hi Callie. What've you been up to all day?"
"Huh? What? Oh. Hi. I don't usually do much. I sort of turn myself off until I'm needed."
"That sounds boring."
"Oh. No... not at all. It's like sleep I guess. I'm fine. Don't worry 'mom'," she teased.
Terry threw a pillow at her and she cried foul. It wasn't fair. She couldn't throw one back.
The two friends talked and laughed for a short time. Terry told Callie about his day and they made plans to meet in Dreamland. Then he got ready for bed.
* * * * *
This time, the dream started off with Terry waiting for Callie. He stood in a small meadow in the middle of a dark old-growth forest wearing his usual blue outfit. He looked all around but his friend was nowhere to be found. After a cry of frustration, she finally revealed herself. He still couldn't see her but he could clearly hear her.
"Terry? Where are you? I don't see you?"
"I don't see you either? What's going on?"
"I don't know... curiouser and curiouser," she muttered.
Terry suddenly and roughly sat down in the tall soft grass, deciding to have himself a good pout. That was all Callie needed to figure it all out. She'd been watching the trees shift left and right but she assumed she was controlling the view.
"Hey! What happened?! The grass suddenly grew," she laughed.
"Huh? What are you talking about?"
"Close your eyes a minute and think of seeing me as the girl from your last dream."
Terry did as she suggested and saw her in his mind. Now it was obvious. She was with him the whole time. She was inside of him, sharing his body. It was amazing! He moved towards her, intending to hug her but instead, he suddenly merged with her. They became one. His eyes flew open and he looked down and saw two delicate hands holding the hem of a pink shirt.
"What the...," he blurted.
"Uh uh! Watch your language young lady," Callie giggled.
"What did you do to me?! I'm a girl!"
"Calm down," she said soothingly. "I didn't do anything to you."
"Then what... how... how did this happen?"
"I think you may have done it for me," she said, speaking at least half the truth. Then she decided to distract Terry with gratitude, especially since she was brimming with it. "Thank you!!" she squealed with delight.
The new girl laughed at her friend's enthusiasm. How could he not. It was contagious. He usually didn't find much to laugh about but now he was laughing heartily, feeling both joy and relief at finding his friend. He felt some relief at finding himself as well, though he still didn't feel comfortable admitting it.
The rest of the dream was spent wandering the forest and exploring. Through Terry, Callie got to climb several trees, throw pine needles in the air and dig in the soft, rich ground. There's no pain or real sensation of touch or smell in dreams, but it was a wonderful experience for her nonetheless.
To Terry, his actions were rather ordinary, but he reveled in seeing everything through his friend's eyes - figuratively of course - and she loved seeing everything through his eyes. He had a great time giving Callie a great time.
* * * * *
Morning intruded once again, and this time it was a Monday. Mondays were the worst. After a weekend spent partying or just staying up all night, none of the bullies and tough kids seemed to get enough sleep so they were always cranky. They needed an outlet - an easy outlet - and Terry was a perfect target. Not only was he small but he was also meek. He never fought back. He took the abuse and went home to cry in the privacy of his bedroom.
This Monday was no different. He got home and ran up to his room, flopping face down on the bed to have a good cry. It wasn't the physical abuse so much as the name-calling that hurt so much. He was more like a very sensitive young girl when it came to emotions. His mother wouldn't be home for a couple hours so he usually had no one to console him. At least now there was Callie, waiting for him at the foot of his bed.
"Terry? Are you okay? What's wrong?"
She knew what was wrong from reading his thoughts but figured it would be better if he talked it out.
"No one likes me!" he cried into his pillow. Then, in a quiet sullen voice he said, "No one." He was full of self-pity and self-loathing. No one liked him, therefore he wasn't worth liking. His ego was a small marble, rattling around inside, barely enough to remind him that he was still alive.
"Hey! What about me?" Callie said with mock anger. "What about your mom and aunt?"
"I meant no one at school likes me," he clarified.
"Oh. Right. Sorry," she said sheepishly.
Terry explained that he doesn't really get a lot of physical abuse. Most of the problem is verbal. He has a lot of stress worrying about being beat up but usually he's just called names. He tries not to let it bother him but he can't seem to help it.
Callie tries to console him, explaining that the names don't fit. The bullies don't know him that well so they can't be accurate. A bully more often than not calls other people names that fits himself better than anyone else. He does it because he really just hates himself.
"Bullies are really quite pathetic creatures," Callie concluded.
"Well some of the names like 'sissy' seem to fit. I am small and weak. I'm more like a girl than a boy."
"So what's wrong with being a girl?"
"Oh come on," Terry rolled his eyes like the answer was obvious.
"No. Really. What's wrong with it?"
"Nothing... except I'm not a girl," he said, shaking with anger. "I'll never be a girl. I can't so just drop it, okay." He said the last bit with such force that Callie sadly and silently agreed. She'd drop it for now. It was a good thing she was very patient.
Eventually, Terry cried himself back to normal. He apologized for his earlier outburst and asked his friend if she liked art. One of his hobbies was drawing. He loved drawing with pens and pencils, including colored pencils. Being left-handed seemed to encourage his creativity and art was a great form of expression that didn't threaten his shy lifestyle.
"I haven't been exposed to a lot of art, only an occasional painted portrait or landscape. I don't get out much ya know," she laughed, getting a muffled chuckle from Terry. He still had his face buried in his pillow.
"That's better," Callie said. "I'm glad to see you can still laugh. There's hope for you yet."
Terry lifted his head, turned and smiled. "Thanks... I think."
"You sure have a lot of interests and hobbies," Callie remarked. "How do you get any one thing done?"
"I don't," he said as he lifted himself up off the bed. "It's hard for me to focus on one thing for very long. Maybe someday I'll get better about it but for now I enjoy the variety."
After rummaging through his small desk for a writing tablet and colored pencils, he sat down on his bed. Then he slowly laid back and stared at the bare ceiling, trying to think of something to draw. Blank spaces were often a good source of inspiration.
Callie grew concerned after a couple minutes of silence. She didn't feel any hurt coming from her friend but she still felt the need to speak up. Even though she'd often inspired others, she didn't fully understand the concept.
"What's the matter?" she finally asked.
"Hmmm? Nothing. I'm just trying to think of something to draw for you."
"Oh. That's easy. How about drawing me?"
"I mean me as the girl in your dreams. Can you do that?"
"I can try," he said slowly. "I'm not great at drawing people."
Callie could tell he didn't have a lot of self-confidence so she tried her best to encourage him. She wanted him to think about her girl self to remind him that he'd had the same body. She hoped to get him used to the idea - someday.
She eventually got Terry to try drawing her, but he didn't like any of his attempts. He crinkled up several sheets of paper and threw them away in disgust. He could be quite a perfectionist.
"It's okay Terry. You can stop for now. Just please don't give up. I've heard a common phrase over the years that I think applies here."
"Practice makes perfect!" she chirped.
So Terry promised to keep trying. He had raw talent. He'd be able to draw her with enough practice.
* * * * *
The weeks flew by. Spring turned into summer and school was out. Terry had a lot more time to practice drawing then, when he wasn't doing something with neighbors. He made good progress on faces but he still couldn't master drawing the rest of the body. He wanted to draw more but he was too distracted by the great outdoors.
Summer was a time to be outside. There were walks, picnics and swimming in nearby lakes. It was a slow, relaxing season. There were no terrorizing bullies, no ridiculing classmates and no reason to try socializing with anyone who wasn't a friend or family member. It was idyllic.
Callie spent the time using dream therapy to help her artistic friend. It helped to a point. She still hadn't been able to become a girl again so Terry stood in for her more and more frequently, and he was happier than he'd ever been - at least at home and in his dreams. Too bad he was still as shy as ever.
Towards the end of the summer, Terry's severe school anxiety was back with a vengeance. He was a bundle of nerves. He was entering 8th grade so he'd be back at the dreaded junior high school. Shyness and anxiety both still had an iron grip on his soul.
Callie had him become her girl self in Dreamland more than ever to keep him distracted but she knew it wouldn't be enough. She'd have to resort to more drastic measures, and life would get worse before it got better.
"Are you ready for something different tonight?"
"What did you have in mind?"
"Well so far you've always been me as a girl with short blonde hair. Don't misunderstand. I'm very grateful for the experiences you've shared. They've been wonderful! I was just thinking I'd like to experiment a little. I was curious what you'd look like with long hair."
"Actually, I've always wanted long hair. I just haven't grown it out because it's so wavy and unmanageable before it gets as long as I'd like. It drives me crazy and I end up getting it cut."
"Really?" Callie wasn't surprised. "I could help you with that in reality. I could have your hair grow faster. Your nails would also grow a lot faster too but you could keep those trimmed."
"Wow! That would be great."
Several boys at school wore their hair down to their shoulders. It was in style back then. None of them wore it as long as Terry would like though. He wanted hair down to his shoulder blades. He didn't care to think of the repercussions.
Seeing how beautiful his long hair looked that night, he couldn't wait to grow it out for real. It didn't occur to him that he looked much more feminine.
By the time school started, Terry's hair was already to his shoulders. It was still a little wild so it'd have to grow more before he'd be happy. It needed to be longer before its own weight would keep it from springing up at odd angles after a night of sleeping on it.
Gail didn't think anything of her son's long hair. She'd seen several boys with long hair when they were out shopping for school clothes. Terry would get a few odd looks because of his androgynous appearance but Gail never noticed. She was just happy to have him out shopping with her, even when he put up his usual fuss as she dragged him from store to store. Later in life he'd learn to appreciate it but for now he fought most traditional female pursuits. He refused to let himself enjoy them.
School was the same - no better and no worse - but at least he had long hair. That helped his self-image, though things did start to get ugly as his hair kept growing. It was well past his shoulders by the end of the second week of the semester. After a month, it was as long as he'd wanted and Callie stopped the accelerated growth. The "girlie" insults began flying after he started tying it back in a pony tail. It actually looked less feminine tied back but that didn't stop the insults.
He'd already been called a sissy quite a lot. Now he was far beyond looking like a sissy. Many who didn't know him thought he was a girl at first. They didn't like their confusion when they found out the truth so they took it out on him.
Frequent crying helped. It relieved tension and got him used to expressing his emotions. It was good training for his girl self in spite of the pain. Still, Callie thought it was time to force things a bit more. She thought Terry was ready for the next step, deciding to stunt his male puberty.
Blocking his male hormones would keep him from getting too masculine - something he didn't like - and would help relax him at the same time. The ratio of female and male hormones would be closer to a girl. He might even have some amount of breast development. She knew he fantasized about that. The only problem was that it would keep him small and a favorite target of bullies. She rationalized that he'd be small for several more years anyway, even without the hormone manipulation. He'd be harassed regardless of her intervention.
* * * * *
Florence sat naked or "sky clad" on her bed, meditating on a lit candle nearby. She was a hedge witch - a solitary practitioner of magic - thanks to her time with Callie, and now she was using her power to divine Terry's future. She didn't want to meddle but she couldn't resist seeing what her former book would do for her nephew.
Callie inspired Florence's interest in the arcane. Her former owner was naturally gifted so it was easy to develop that gift. After showing the young woman how quickly and easily she could hurt or help people, it was an easy decision to follow the path of good. Florence may have been rebellious and angry but she wasn't malicious. She had a good heart and wanted the best for everyone.
The divination was problematic at first. The spell was set to move forward in time until Terry was happy and no longer needed his book's help, but Florence couldn't see past a thick, dark cloud that loomed on the horizon. She ended up blasting through it and shooting several years in the future. That's when a girl in her late teens appeared in her vision. The girl seemed very happy and healthy but the confused witch couldn't see what that had to do with Terry - unless it was a girlfriend. It was obvious the teen had some sort of close connection with Terry because the vision caused the terms of the spell to be met. The spell started rewinding time.
The journey back to the present was made more slowly. Florence wanted to linger and see if she could find out more about the dark cloud. Of course it was too dark to see anything. The only new thing about it that she picked up was that it had bad vibes. Something decidedly evil was coming and she had a feeling that Terry and Gail would both need her help to get through it. She didn't want to worry her sister with this. She'd just make sure she'd be ready.
Chapter 4: Dark
People often say they don't believe in magic and evil spirits. The modern world has no room for such nonsense. That doesn't mean no one believes in them though, and it doesn't mean they don't exist. Superstition is still strong. That's why we have night lights, security blankets and good luck charms. We still need protection. Superstition is a reaction to our irrational fear of the unknown, and there's a lot we don't know about the universe.
Take time for instance. The more physicists theorize about it, the stranger it gets. It's actually rather fluid and changeable, making divination more of an art than a skill. Divination really only shows potential, from what might be to what will most likely be. Nothing is set in stone. Florence definitely had one thing right though. Something bad was coming - or more accurately, someone bad was coming.
An 8th grade girl named Shelly stood in the nursery of a house several miles away, watching a squalling baby girl in her crib. She was supposed to be babysitting but instead, she fed off the negative emotions of the baby. She was really an evil entity who called himself Trickster.
He thinks of himself to be like Coyote or Loki. That's how he chose his name. He disguises himself or otherwise tricks people into trusting him. He needs to get close to people to best enjoy and feed on their suffering. He is somewhat like Loki, but his personality better matches the darker side of the Norse trickster god. A more fitting label for him would be a psychic vampire.
Trickster used his power to change his shape into Shelly, and take over her life. Babysitting was a very convenient method for getting close to some very good sources of food and entertainment. He didn't enjoy being a girl. He wouldn't normally be so subtle but something about this opportunity called to him.
He trapped the real Shelly in a pocket dimension, holding her in reserve. When nothing else was available, he could psychically attack her without restraint and gorge on her extreme suffering. It wasn't possible to keep it up for long. Humans couldn't handle it. His victim would eventually burn out to become an unresponsive basket case. He'd release her when that happened and briefly feed on the anguish of her parents as they tried to deal with their catatonic daughter. Then he'd move on to his next meal ticket.
He didn't always like hurting people. He only started doing it because without a steady diet of fear and pain, he started to shrivel and die. He didn't want to die. As the centuries rolled by, he first became desensitized to his feeding habit, and eventually grew to like it. It always gave him a rush to feed. His pleasure centers rewarded him for the torture with a tasty meal so it was natural for him to grow to like it. This innocent babe's suffering wasn't as filling as adult terror, but it was like sweet candy to him. He loved evoking the emotions and he loved feeding on them.
If baby Suzy was somehow able to grasp what was going on, she'd probably wish her tormentor choked on his food. She was being magically tortured and teased with visions. In her mind, giant nipples oozed sour milk and dozens of hands spanked her sore bottom, all while her mother screamed hate and anger at her. She fussed, kicked and screamed but she couldn't escape her terrifying nightmare. Her babysitter should've been comforting her. Instead all she got from the girl was a disturbing smile and a glazed look in her eye.
Luckily for Trickster's victims, their outpouring of strong emotions is very tiring. They can't keep it up and they fall asleep before too long. It drains them physically as well as emotionally. It's unhealthy but at least the suffering ends temporarily - until they wake up again or start having bad dreams.
The emotional vampire sometimes waits for nightmares. He likens it to dessert or a nightcap. Nightmares aren't as strong as conscious emotions but they can be delicious and even intoxicating. Baby Suzy falls asleep after an hour of anguish but her parents come home before the bad dreams start.
Trickster sighs as Suzy's mother comes in to check on her. No dessert tonight. The loving mother coos to her sleeping daughter and the disappointed babysitter leaves the room. He can't stand a doting mother's strong feelings of love. They actually cause him pain and anguish. Deep down he knows what he does is wrong. He wishes he could love and be loved but it'll never happen. It would kill him.
Suzy's father pulls out his wallet to pay Shelly. He looks at her for a moment as he reaches for the money. Something about her doesn't seem quite right but he shakes it off.
"There you go. Thanks Shelly."
"Thank you Mr. Johnson."
"How was Suzy tonight? I hope she didn't give you any trouble."
"Oh she was no trouble at all. She was great," Trickster said with a smile. Then as an afterthought he silently added, "tasting".
Too bad he couldn't stay for dessert. It was just as well because he planned to start looking for an even greater source of nourishment. Recently he'd begun to feel an irresistible mix of fear, anxiety and power. It shone like a beacon from halfway across the city, luring him like a moth to a flame. He meant to have that power for himself since it was much greater than his own. He'd use it to create havoc. Then he'd feast.
* * * * *
One thing Terry doesn't like to do is give up. It's Saturday night, just into November now and he's been drawing every chance he gets. Several sheets of paper with Callie's dream face surround him on his bed while he scribbles away, still trying to draw the body that matches the face. He can't draw well from memory so he finds a magazine picture of a teen model that he can copy. He feels it captures Callie's essence. The model stands with one hand on her jutting hip and the other hanging down to her thigh. It's perfect.
It's tempting to just trace the picture but his pride won't allow him to do that. Instead he scales it slightly larger than in the magazine, and he adds his friend's head to the body. On the third try of the night, he yells out in triumph.
"I did it! It's done!"
"Huh? What's done?" Callie said. She'd been bored and started meditating over two hours ago.
"I finished my drawing," Terry said with a satisfied smile.
"Hurray!! So hold it up already. Let's see it."
Callie focused on the sheet of paper and willed herself to see the colors and form. She loved it! Terry assured her it was a very good likeness. She had to take his word for it because she was never able to see what she looked like other than her hair. She'd seen Terry with her blonde hair before she fused with him and that was it. Now she had an image to go with her voice. She wished she could hug and kiss him, but for now, squeals of delight would have to do.
Terry blushed at his friend's reaction. Then his pride took over. It was decided by both of them to frame it and hang it on the wall next to his bed. That way it would be easy to see and remember it for the lucid dream sessions. They were hoping it would help Callie visualize and become that girl. For now though, he just pinned up the sheet of paper and filed away all of the other drawings of her face. He'd ask his mom for a picture frame later.
Callie's dream body had been a good first step in getting Terry used to being a girl but it would be better if he started transforming his own body, and it would be easier to help the process along if she had her own body. She could do things that girls do together like braid each other's hairs and doing each other's fingernails.
Gail suddenly called up to him from downstairs. It was time for bed - great timing. The two of them can't wait for tonight's dreams.
Terry sheds his jeans and sweat shirt and dons his pajamas in record time. After a quick march to the bathroom for teeth cleaning and a few other things, he runs back in and pounces on his bed. The poor little thing creaks in protest but holds. It's a very sturdy bed. The light clicks off and bed covers rustle for several minutes. Then the sound of quiet snoring is heard. The journey to Dreamland has begun.
Terry is back in the forest. All the dreams start there. It's a favorite place of his in reality so it makes a good starting point for his dream sessions.
Callie is nowhere to be seen, and he doesn't sense her inside him. That's a little disappointing but at least it's something different.
"Callie! Where are you?" he calls.
Two hands reach around from behind him and cover his face, and a familiar voice answers him.
"Hey!" Terry whips around and there's his friend, as she was before so many months ago. They'd done it. She had her dream body again.
Callie grabbed him and hugged him for a long time, sniffling in his ear.
"Thank you," she finally whispered as she released him.
"You're welcome," he said with a blush.
Terry spent the rest of the dream following Callie around as she did all the same things she had him do for her over the past months. She had a new body to get used to. The tickling could wait for now, Terry thought with a mischievous grin.
* * * * *
Trickster stood in the lunch line at Terry's junior high school. He correctly assumed that the source of the exquisite anxiety he felt would be going to this school. He decided to keep up the charade to try and find that source.
He hated waiting in line and he hated the slop they called food. There wasn't any nutritional value in it for him but he had to keep up appearances and actually eat some of it. He got his nourishment from all of the emotions around him.
Young teens were a great source of angst and here he was in a school full of them. They kept him well fed but they also made it difficult to pick out the one he was looking for. There were too many packed in one place and their emotions were too strong. He'd recognize his prize victim easily enough but he'd have to be very close. It was taking far longer than he'd hoped.
Trickster had been Shelly for over six weeks. It was the longest he'd ever kept another form. It was amazing that the real Shelly still held on to her sanity. She was a strong little human. He figured it had something to do with her anger. She channeled anger very well. So far he hadn't gotten much energy from her. He had trouble absorbing anger.
It didn't matter to him if Shelly burned out. He'd just take over someone else at this miserable little school. The power he'd been sensing had better be worth it though, he grumbled to himself. He grew tired of the hunt. At least it was easier with the incessant fall rains of Western Washington. The cold, wet weather kept everyone inside and available for easy scanning.
Terry sat at a half-filled table far from the lunch line. He never bought lunch at school. He was too fussy and didn't like anything they served. He didn't even like the smell. That's why he sat so far away. He brown-bagged it instead and sat with some of the other unpopular students, silently eating and pretending to be invisible so he wouldn't be teased. It didn't work.
A large bully named Tom strutted over with trouble written all over his face. The others at the table quickly edged away, leaving the bully free to heap on his abuse.
"Well look at the girlie boy," sneered Tom.
Terry remained silent. He thought about a nice comeback - like, "Why don't you go sit on a cactus?" - but didn't dare say it. He'd be beaten to a pulp. Bullies didn't like their victims to talk back. The only thing they respected was physical trauma.
"Why don't you ever wear a dress?" Tom continued. "I'll give you a nickel if you wear a dress tomorrow."
"Come on," said one of Tom's nicer friends. "Leave him alone. Let's go to the gym."
"You mean leave 'her' alone. Okay. I'll leave 'her' alone," Tom said as he followed his friend towards the exit. He called out very loudly with one more thing just before they left the cafeteria. "You better be wearing a dress tomorrow!"
Terry almost choked on the carrot he was nibbling. He'd mostly tuned everything out and was daydreaming about wearing a dress when he heard the shout. It didn't matter whether he wore one or not. Tomorrow was going to be rough either way. That meant there'd be lots of crying over the next several days.
Today was meat loaf day - another reason to cry. This was the day when spongy, rubbery dark brown globs were dropped on plates and declared to be meat loaf. It was all a sham - a conspiracy. There's no way it could be meat, but the kids ate it anyway. They complained but they ate it - and they lived! It was amazing. At least the mashed potatoes were edible, once you picked out the overcooked peas and carrots that always seemed to dribble into everything.
Trickster looked down at his full plate and felt queasy. Maybe this is what caused a lot of the misery in this school, and if so, maybe he shouldn't be so critical of it. It would be easier if he didn't have to eat some of it himself. He wished he could get his 'parents' to make him a lunch like the kid who just got teased about wearing a dress. If he had to eat something, he'd rather it tasted good.
That gave the foul soul an idea. He'd go sit by the girlie boy and show a little interest in him. It should be easy to sweet talk something better tasting out of the boy. Even if he couldn't, there'd still be a lot of hurt in the air around him that he could really sink his teeth into. That brightened his mood.
Shelly didn't have many friends. The real Shelly was almost as shy as Terry so it was difficult for her to make friends, and with Trickster ignoring them, she wouldn't have any before long. The dark one just sat wherever kids looked gloomy and soaked it all in while he nibbled at whatever passed for food on his plate. Now he had his sights set on Terry.
Trickster sat down and was just about to ask to trade some food when he gasped in recognition. Here was the source of anxiety he'd been looking for! There were unmistakable traces of magic on the boy that confirmed it. It took a few seconds to recover but luckily his prey was still oblivious to his presence. Now all he had to do was be a little nice and he'd be led right to the source of the magic.
"Hi," said a pleasant looking girl who suddenly appeared next to Terry. "My name's Shelly. What's yours?"
* * * * *
It was the second weekend of his new 'friendship' and things weren't going well for Trickster. Everything was taking too long. He befriended the girlie boy to try to use him to get to the magic, but by being nice, he made him happy. Not even bullies could bring Terry down. The magic power felt strong enough to be worth the sacrifice of nourishment but he needed some human suffering to stay alive. Of course he had plenty to sustain him during the week at school. It was only the weekends when he got low on energy. Making friends was slow and exhausting.
Shelly's parents helped. They had problems from time to time and they dragged their fake daughter to friends and relatives who were all screwed up in some way. Actually, everyone is screwed up in some way, some of the time. The only problem is, it's not usually enough to keep a psychic vampire alive. Sometimes the pot had to be stirred.
Babysitting had helped. Parents often had to blow off steam away from home on the weekend, leaving their brats with a neighbor girl like Shelly. She'd babysat little Suzy several times but that dried up quickly. Suzy probably started turning ugly and her parents suspected that Shelly somehow had something to do with it. People usually figured out the connection eventually. That's why he had to keep moving.
There were no other babies or very young children in the neighborhood so babysitting was out. Other than Terry, the only possible source of food on the weekend was the real Shelly. Unfortunately, she was turning into a real tiger. Her eyes seemed to glow red whenever she sensed his presence. As long as he kept her in prison, he had trouble fooling her. She always knew it was him because he was the only one who had access to her. She was too smart for her own good. The only way to weaken her spirit was to withhold food and water. That made her more susceptible to all those horrid but delectable emotions.
Trickster smiled when he thought back to last weekend. Shelly was very thin from not getting enough to eat and he put a magic mirror and a table full of food in with her. The mirror made her look overweight so she didn't want to eat anything, even though she was literally starving. He even tweaked her mind to make her think that her clothes were tight fitting. That made the fat illusion more realistic. She was a mess until she finally got angry again and shattered the mirror. It looked like he couldn't use that ploy again but at least he was well fed that day.
Now it was another weekend and he was hungry again. Shelly was an only child so there were no siblings to torment. That only left Terry, and possibly his family. It took long enough but today was the day Terry would introduce him - as Shelly - to his family. He was invited over to the girlie boy's house for lunch. How sweet.
The logistics of the meeting were mostly unimportant to him. Both mothers talked on the phone to check each other out. The paranoia had a subtle flavor he liked. That's all he cared about.
His 'mother' drove him over and dropped him off. She waited for the front door to open, briefly waved and sped off to the mall. She'd be in a good mood when she came to pick him up. That was a depressing thought, but he wouldn't need a ride back if he was lucky.
He was greeted at the door by Terry. The girlie boy wore one of his best outfits - a dark green sweater and black jeans - but the dark one didn't notice. He barely noticed the bright yellow sweater and blue jeans that he thoughtlessly threw on that morning. Clothes didn't matter to him. It was only the inside that counts.
When Trickster met Terry's mother, he almost drooled. She was full of anxiety and loneliness that had built up over many years. It was heady stuff and Trickster had to force himself to follow his 'friend'. It was lucky for Gail that magic pulsed on the floor above, reminding the evil being why he was there.
Callie was pleasantly surprised when Terry told her about Shelly. Now he had a real female friend. That didn't keep disappointment from creeping in later though. She wasn't jealous or anything. It's just that it would most likely mean a slowdown in Terry's progress. If he found some amount of short-term happiness, then he wouldn't have the anxiety to motivate him to change.
Strong motivation was crucial to bring about drastic change. Some people liked to dive in and 'bring it on' but it seemed that the majority started by dipping their toes and wading in slowly. The shy ones were usually that way. They needed to be pushed. They'd look for any excuse to go slow, and if things moved too quickly, they'd run away and have to start all over again. Callie didn't want to start over. She had to find some way to work around this new friendship.
She knew next to nothing about this girl. Terry gushed about her but he didn't really have a lot of details. Apparently this girl was shy too - just great. That couldn't be good. What do two shy kids talk about? Maybe they don't talk at all. They could just pass notes back and forth. Well no matter because Callie would find out more about her. Shelly was coming over for lunch today and would be given a tour of the house. There would be plenty of opportunities to probe her thoughts and see what makes this girl tick. Maybe Shelly could be helped too.
In preparation for the visit, Callie had Terry slip her in his closet after breakfast today. She had to be hidden from the outside world as much as possible for protection. She also suggested that he find some excuse to leave Shelly alone in his bedroom for a short time so she could check her out. The poor boy didn't see why that would be necessary but he agreed anyway. He trusted the wise old book.
Lunch was scheduled after the grand tour. Gail left the tour up to the two youngsters and stayed in the kitchen to prepare chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
The troubled mom smiled and hummed to herself, trying to talk herself into being happy. If Terry was happy, then she could be too. Work had been brutal the past month so she needed a happy weekend. She did the job of two people and never got the recognition she deserved. It also didn't help that her boss was a pig. She really smiled when she imagined catapulting him into a mud pit. A vivid imagination ran in the family and she took full advantage of it. It helped her get through the work day and times like now, doing household chores.
The wonderful aroma filling the house would normally distract Terry. His stomach would growl in frustration until it was satisfied. Today was different. Today he had the company of a young lady to distract him. He led her around the first floor and then started upstairs.
"The bathroom is the first door on the right," Terry began at the top of the stairs. "Here's my mom's room," he opened the door to the master bedroom. "She gets the largest room because she's the mom," he said playfully. "And here we have the cold, dark spare bedroom in the far corner of the house."
"Just like my house," commented Shelly. "But what's that?" she pointed out a small bulky table pushed up against the wall.
"That's my mom's sewing table. See... the sewing machine hangs down underneath to free up space. Don't you sew?" He thought she'd recognize a sewing table, especially since the sewing machine was fairly easy to see.
"Why should I sew?"
"I don't know. I thought most girls liked it."
"Oh. Maybe I'll take it up later," he lied. He was just telling Terry what he thought the boy wanted to hear.
He tried to picture sewing cloth but it was just too mundane, even with a machine. His sick imagination twisted it into sewing up mutilated bodies instead. Hospitals could be wonderful places to feed during large-scale disasters. The anguish of both the injured and their loved ones was wonderfully satisfying. That brought a little smile to his face.
Terry ended the tour with his cozy little bedroom. He showed off his shells first, thinking she'd appreciate all the colors and exotic shapes. They didn't seem to interest her though. Nothing seemed to interest her. She looked around at everything but her eyes never lingered on any one thing except his closet door. That was odd.
The disappointed boy remembered Callie's request then and said he had to use the bathroom. He'd be back in a few minutes. He welcomed the break anyway. He needed to think about Shelly's lackluster reaction. He'd told her about his hobbies at school and she seemed to be very interested then. Something wasn't right.
Trickster couldn't believe his luck. Terry was going to the bathroom so the dark being was going to be left alone with the power source! It was on the floor in the back of the closet. He could feel it. Now all he had to do was claim it. If he could, he'd grab it and make a mad dash out of this house. He couldn't wait to start somewhere new.
Callie would've cringed if she could move. She sensed someone else in the bedroom but it wasn't a girl. All she could 'see' was a dark splotch and wondered why Terry had brought such a being home. It had to have a disguise. Nothing else made sense. She had to warn her friend but she couldn't call out to him now, not with their magic bond being disrupted by another presence. She couldn't talk to him when anyone else was present. It was annoying at times and extremely frustrating now. All she could do was write on her pages in huge letters, "RUN!! EVIL!! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!" It was pointless but the venting had a calming effect she desperately needed.
This thing was dark inside and out, and seemed as old as she was. She could tell it enjoyed suffering and preferred to be the one causing the suffering. It made sense that something evil would find her after all these years. There were a lot more people and lot more evil beings in today's world. It was a good thing her creator gave her the ability to defend herself. From what she could tell, she'd have to hit it hard and fast.
Trickster reached into the closet with his senses. Inside was a pure rich power, slightly pulsating like a heartbeat. It was mesmerizing. Some object on the floor seemed to contain and control the power. That was his target.
He shook his head to snap himself out his trance. Then he pulled open the dark brown wooden door.
It wasn't clear what was happening in the bedroom. The dark splotch stood just outside the closet, waiting for something. Then Callie felt its dark presence probing her magic. If she could, she would've screamed. It was creepy and horrible! It created a link that allowed her to clearly see into the dark one's foul, corrupt soul. Before she'd just got general impressions of its evil. Now she got vivid images. One good thing came of it though, once she blocked out the images she'd seen. The pause gave her time to think and act.
Callie had many more powers than she'd told Terry. She didn't like to brag. She could actually create items out of thin air - actually from magic - though it took her awhile to recharge after doing so. She created a pink stuffed toy tiger with blue stripes and a silly grin pasted on its face. The tiger stood on top of her like a guardian, which is exactly what it was. Timing would be important now so she couldn't relax yet.
Trickster looked down inside the closet, ignoring the shirts hanging down and the large boxes and shoes pushed to both sides on the floor. He was amused to see a stuffed toy tiger on a large, old book. Both the tiger and the book were glowing with power but it was obvious that the book was the source. The tiger only glowed by its proximity to the book.
Terry must have put the grinning tiger on the book as a symbolic guard, he thought. How ridiculous.
The dark being grabbed the tiger and tossed it back behind him without looking. Then he reached for the book.
He didn't notice the stuffed toy hitting the floor by the bed. It first landed on its side. Then it tipped up on its feet to face the closet and magically rooted itself to the spot. Trickster was oblivious to everything but the book.
Callie willed herself to be calm. She had to be strong for Terry. No one was going to hurt him. No one!
Wait for it..., she thought. Wait... now!
Just as the dark splotch grabbed the tiger, Callie created a magical bonding between the two. It was a different type of bond than the one she experienced with Terry. This bond was much stronger and more focused.
Within seconds after throwing the tiger, the magic bond began to work. It started with a gentle tug on its partner that turned quickly into an ever stronger pull. It reeled in the dark one, dragging him slowly across the rug.
The emotional vampire's face went from joy to confusion to anger as he felt the tiger's force pulling on him. The book was within his grasp and the next thing he knew, he was being dragged across the room.
"No!" he boomed in an otherworldly voice. The bedroom window rattled and downstairs, the sound of breaking glass was briefly heard.
Within just a few seconds, Trickster had been pulled into the stuffed toy, trapped by magic too strong for him to break. He was imprisoned in a ridiculous toy! He howled in rage but no one could hear him now. There was nothing left of his body in the physical world. Now he was trapped in a pocket dimension even smaller than the one he'd created for Shelly.
Terry came running into the room just in time to see Shelly get sucked into a toy tiger on the floor near his bed. Something was wrong about her though. Was he seeing things? Her body twisted and got darker as she got closer to the toy. There was nothing left but a dark cloud that disappeared into the tiger.
He looked closely at the toy now. He had several stuffed animals stashed around his room but he didn't have a stuffed tiger. He picked it up to examine it more closely. As soon as he touched it he felt strange and disturbing thoughts force their way into his head. He noticed an angry sneer on its face just before he dropped it back on the floor, absently rubbing the palm of his hand on his sweater.
Terry was in a daze, staring down at the tiger when Callie started calling to him.
"Terry? Terry! Are you okay?"
"Huh? Yeah. I think so," he muttered. "What happened?"
"Oh oh," Callie said suddenly. She detected yet another source of magic, and it was forming in the bedroom.
"Terry, you need to come over here."
"You need to come over here now!"
Terry turned slowly and walked towards the open closet just as a magic portal opened in his ceiling. Then another scream could be heard - a girl's scream - followed by the source of the scream falling through his ceiling and landing on his bed. Shelly had returned to the physical plane, and she didn't look good.
"Mom! Mom!" Terry yelled. "Come quick! Something's wrong with Shelly!"
Chapter 5: Trauma
Gail was already on her way to her son's room when she heard him call her. She'd first heard a horrible booming voice that startled her, causing her to drop a glass on the floor. There was a brief urge to clean up the glass but her son's safety came first. Then she heard a girl's scream and figured it was Shelly. Something was very wrong.
The worrying mother wanted to run to her child but she hesitated with fear. Whatever made that first noise sounded powerful and dangerous. Of course it didn't take long for her maternal instinct to take over, overtaking the fear.
When she got there, she gasped in shock. There was a skinny, sick looking girl on Terry's bed. She wore different clothes than Shelly arrived in but it had to be the same girl in spite of her drastically different appearance.
"What happened to her?" Gail cried.
"I don't know. I really don't know," Terry replied truthfully. He didn't think he should try to explain how she fell out of the ceiling just yet. That was hard enough for him to believe and he actually saw it happen. Besides, it didn't actually explain anything. He wondered if Callie knew what was happening.
Gail stood there, staring at the poor girl for several minutes before she thought to act.
"Okay. I'm going to take Shelly to the bathroom and clean her up. In the meantime, try asking Callie if she knows anything."
Shelly was helped up and taken across the hall to the bathroom. She was very thin and weak and had trouble walking on her own. She couldn't get much exercise where she was and her muscles protested. The poor girl was also a bit ripe and her clothes were soiled. There were no bathroom facilities in her prison. Gail had to breathe through her mouth to handle the stench. She realized nothing less than a good long bath - clothes and all - would do.
As soon as the water started running in the bathtub, Shelly's mind started to process her new environment. She'd gotten extremely close to the catatonic state that all of Trickster's prisoners eventually reached. She wasn't totally out of it but she was confused and disoriented. For now she just focused on the water.
"Water... thirsty," she croaked, licking her dry, cracked lips.
"Oh you poor dear!"
Gail grabbed a yellow plastic cup and filled it with water from the sink. The thirsty guest greedily sucked it down and then managed to speak again.
"More?" she said in a small, pathetic voice.
The concerned woman had to fill the cup three times before Shelly slowed down. After the fourth cup, the dehydrated girl stopped asking for more and just stood there with her legs trembling from the strain of standing too long.
Gail helped her step into the bathtub and sit down in the hot water. When the girl didn't move to clean herself, Gail started doing it for her. It was terribly heartbreaking to see someone in that state and tears rolled down Gail's cheeks.
Shelly's sage green long-sleeved knit shirt and delicate beige bra were removed and dropped in the tub. Her sneakers, socks, jeans and panties were also removed and left for later. The clothes could soak now and then be washed and dried after Shelly was clean.
The dazed girl didn't respond when asked to shut her eyes. She barely even blinked. Her caretaker had to lean her back to keep the shampoo out of her eyes while she carefully washed her long, straight, greasy brown hair. It took several washings before it looked clean.
The rest of the bathing went well. Then she was stood up briefly to be dried with a large fluffy white bath towel that was wrapped around her afterwards. She didn't bother trying to keep the towel in place though. It kept sliding down when she was moved. It didn't seem to occur to her to be modest so the towel was replaced with a warm, fuzzy blue bath robe. She was sat down on the toilet while her clothes were scrubbed and wrung out.
The water sounds and all the colors, including the hot pink walls, shiny white square tiles and bright floral print on the shower curtain, slowly stimulated Shelly's brain. Her prison had been a uniform light gray that had dulled her senses and helped lead to her present state. It wasn't long before she thought to speak again. She was still disoriented though.
"Thanks mom," she said with almost no emotion, not realizing who was caring for her.
That was too much. Gail broke down then and bawled.
"Callie? What's going on? What happened to Shelly?" Terry asked in a timid voice as he moved Callie to his bed.
"Oh Terry. It was awful. Something horrible had taken Shelly's place. That wasn't Shelly you brought in your room. It was an evil monster in disguise! I couldn't warn you because it was in the room. I was so scared!"
"Hey. It's okay. It's gone now. It is gone, right?"
"Not exactly. It's trapped in that stuffed toy tiger."
Callie eased Terry's fears and explained as much as she knew. She didn't know what she'd trapped, only that it was evil. She wanted Terry to keep the tiger around so she could keep an eye on the being inside. She wanted to find out more about it and see if there were any others on their way. Terry agreed it was a good idea.
"What about Shelly?" Terry had to ask. "Where was she and how did she fall through my ceiling?"
Callie wasn't sure about that. She could only guess that the evil thing had attacked and trapped the girl somehow and that trapping it had freed her.
There was still one more thing bothering the boy. He was full of questions and had no problems asking them now.
"I still don't understand why it was interested in me. What do you supposed it wanted?"
"I'm not sure about that either. It could be that it was trying to use you to get to me. I could tell that it sensed me in the closet without seeing me. I think it was attracted to my magic power."
"That would explain why it kept staring at my closet door."
Terry was satisfied for the moment. Callie had a lot more questions though. She didn't voice them, hoping they'd be answered in time. For now, everyone was safe. That was good enough for her.
There was one more thing that Callie felt the need to say and then she'd see about helping Shelly. The girl looked to be in pretty bad shape.
"Terry? Please don't tell your mother about our conversation. I don't want her worrying too much over this."
That much was true, but what she left unsaid was that she didn't want Gail taking her away from Terry to protect him - at least not before she could help him realize his dream. He didn't need to know that part.
"What am I supposed to tell her? She'll want some answers. She suspects you know something about this."
"That's true. We have to tell her something and I can't have you lying to her."
Callie sorted through all of her memories. She could remember everything she'd ever written in her pages, every thought she'd read. She didn't have much experience with this type of situation but the few times she did, there was one common thread that seemed to help. She just did the same thing with Terry when she told him why she didn't want him to worry his mother about this. When the whole truth won't do, use partial truth.
Terry could tell his mother that Shelly was psychically attacked by an evil being and that Callie got rid of it. That much was true. It didn't have to be said that the reason the being was here was to steal her magic power. Callie didn't want Gail to think she was an evil magnet.
Gail brought Shelly to Terry's room and had her sit on the bed next to Callie. She was very concerned about the girl's condition but she wanted to get started on cleaning her clothes as soon as possible. They had to be clean and dry when Shelly's mother came to pick her up. She'd momentarily forgotten there could be a problem with the clothes being different from the ones Shelly wore when she arrived. She was distracted by a couple more important things. The change in clothes seemed small in comparison with Shelly's current state of mind. She also wanted to hear what Terry found out from Callie. She was desperate with worry.
Gail took her son out in the hallway and grilled him. She wanted answers and she wanted them now. Terry relayed everything according to Callie's suggestions and that satisfied the worried mother for now. She wasn't happy but at least everyone was safe.
While Gail and Terry spoke in the hall, Shelly was still fairly unresponsive. She stared straight ahead, blinking infrequently. She was aware of everything around her but she felt no desire or need to react to anything. She was afraid to react. She learned that if she reacted in prison, it caused her great suffering. Not reacting was the only thing that protected her.
Callie could feel the girl's pain and wanted to help. She couldn't speak to her but she could read thoughts and write on her pages. The only problem was getting Shelly's attention. She created a slight breeze in the room to no effect. All it did was make her more tired. She was already low on energy from all the magic she used to capture the evil entity.
The frustrated magic book should've known better. The autistic girl couldn't be reached using external sources. It had to be done from within. Direct communication wasn't possible but if a subconscious mental link could be made, it might allow the girl's muscles to be controlled.
Callie established a connection to Shelly's subconscious and now the pain was clearly evident. Fear and a tinge of anger flashed in vivid reds, yellow and oranges, along with dream imagery that would normally evoke those emotions. It was a psychic battlefield - a war Shelly was having with herself. If Callie had a mental bond with the girl, she might be able to control the images and communicate that way, but that wasn't possible. She already had a bond with Terry.
The only thing to be done now was turn Shelly's head in her direction and move the girl's arm. It took a bit of practice but she was able to get the girl to open her cover. Now she could try to communicate.
"Hello Shelly," Callie wrote at the top of the page.
Shelly didn't respond. She saw the writing appear on the page, but even if she wasn't in a daze, she'd have a hard time believing she was being addressed by a book.
"My name is Callie," continued the book. "I'm a magic book." There was still no response from the girl.
"You are safe now. The evil one who trapped you is now trapped. It's safe to come back. Come back to us Shelly. Please come back to us."
Callie's pleading had little effect but it did have some. She didn't notice that Shelly was blinking more often now. That didn't stop her from continuing.
"Think of your mother and father. They love you. They want you to come home. Your mother will come back to pick you up in a couple hours. Then you can tell her how much you love her. Won't that be nice?"
Shelly's brow furrowed. She'd just had her mother bathe her, didn't she? Now she needed to change clothes. It was time for a new outfit. She was tired of wearing the same clothes for so long. She wanted to get up and change. Why couldn't she get up and change? It hadn't yet sunk in that she was sitting in a strange bedroom wearing a blue bath robe.
Callie noticed she was slowly getting through to the troubled girl. She wasn't sure it was the right thing to do however. She sensed the inner conflict and confusion. The girl's fear was too strong. So far, Shelly was given the slow, "wading in the water" treatment, and she kept backing out of the water. Diving in was the only recourse now. The girl had to dive in and face her fear. No real progress could be made until that happened. It was time for drastic measures.
"Your parents aren't here Shelly," wrote Callie. "You're at a friend's house. You were freed from something evil and ended up here. Where were you Shelly? What happened to you? You have to tell me!"
"No!" Shelly cried, as she broke out into a cold sweat. "I can't."
"Yes. You can. You must. What was it that trapped you? What did it do to you? I can't help you until you tell me. Tell me!"
Shelly teetered on the edge of sanity, muttering about having a bad dream. She was trying to wake up but she couldn't. The fear was too strong.
Callie had never dealt with such a condition. She was scared she'd push too hard. Probing the girl's subconscious showed a nightmarish landscape filled with swarms of syringes full of molten lava, giant ants with human hands holding a knife and fork, and full-size remote controlled cars running over pedestrians. Then she noticed something oddly out of place. In the middle of a small, beautiful meadow sat a younger version of Shelly. The little girl had her arms folded and her eyes pinched shut to block out the chaos around her. There was a scowl on the girl's face that said she knew what was going on but couldn't stop it. Here was Shelly's core personality, and it was angry. Anger had protected the girl for a long time but it had been overwhelmed by the dark one's torture and the drab, lifeless colors of her prison.
Callie understood everything now. She knew how Shelly was tortured and how the poor girl endured it for so long. Anger was the key. Anger was stronger than fear. The anger sat and stewed here, waiting for a chance to fight back. It wanted to get back into the game. It just needed a little help.
"Shelly. The dark one that tortured you is still here. I have it trapped. Trapped like you were. It's being punished. It's getting what it deserves."
"What?" Shelly said in a small voice.
"Would you like to make sure it can't hurt you again? Would you like to ask it why it tortured you?"
Shelly didn't say anything but it was obvious she needed to confront her tormentor. Callie was nearly drained but she was able to use her magic connection to link up to the tiger prison. The former victim could see the thing trapped inside, snarling back. She cringed but didn't back away. It really was trapped.
"Why?" the tortured girl asked. "Why did you do it?"
The dark one said nothing. It just snarled. Callie filtered some of its thoughts and showed them to the girl, allowing both of them to better understand the evil being. Its name was Trickster and it fed on negative emotions. It was a psychic vampire. It took advantage of the misery of others and enjoyed causing more. Then it fed on that suffering.
Amazingly, Trickster was only getting pity from the girl at this point. She thought he was pathetic. She hadn't been shown any graphic images yet. It was time to step things up a notch.
Shelly was shown images of what Trickster hoped to do with her. She was in a fetal position on her bed, mentally lifeless though her body was still alive. Her parents were crying over her and there was the dark one, feeding on her parents. That was too much.
Rage boiled inside her. Her anger was awake now and it wanted closure. Through the mental connection, she screamed every obscenity she knew at the foul thing while she kicked at its magic cage. After her rage cooled down to a slow simmer, she noted with satisfaction that her former tormentor backed away from her onslaught, even though it was safe from her. That was all she needed. Shelly was back.
As a last bit of therapy, Callie had the girl throw the tiger in the back of Terry's closet to be forgotten - but not gone.
While she was grilling her son, Gail was pleased to hear Shelly talking a little back in the bedroom. She figured the girl was having a conversation with Callie, but she had no idea of the difficult nature of that conversation and how far Shelly had to go.
The mother-son talk was finished just as Shelly finished her cathartic mental rant. The two of them walked into the bedroom to see a puzzled looking girl, still sitting on Terry's bed.
"Who are you?" asked the recovered girl. "Callie? Who are these people?" She said as she turned to look down at the book beside her.
The page was full of text but the girl noticed two words appear near the bottom edge of the page. They read, "Turn page." She followed the directions and a new, blank page began filling up with text.
"They're friends," wrote Callie. "Don't worry. They're helping you, as am I."
Then Shelly finally noticed she wasn't in her bedroom. She had no idea where she was! That got her more than a little concerned. She sprang up off the bed and jerked her head back and forth.
"Hey! It's okay. I'm Terry. We met at school. You're at my house. I invited you over and gave you a tour. The next thing I knew, some evil being was fought off by my book and you looked drained. My mom cleaned you up. You're okay now. Everything is okay."
Shelly started getting shaky again and flopped back on the bed. She looked down at the book and read, "That about sums it up." That let her breathe a sigh of relief.
Gail saw everything had calmed down and finally introduced herself. Then she remembered lunch - and the broken glass on the kitchen floor - and hurried out of the room. She had a lot to do, including washing Shelly's clothes before the girl's mother returned.
As soon as his mother left, Terry spoke up. "So are you okay now Shelly? I was really scared."
"I'm okay," Shelly said, sounding braver than she really felt. She tried to be stoic. It was hard to let herself go after fighting Trickster for so long in her prison.
"I'm glad," Terry said with a relieved smile.
An awkward silence followed. Shelly didn't really know what to say to this boy. He said they'd met at school but she didn't remember him. That bothered her.
"Terry? I'm sorry but I don't remember meeting you at school. I don't know what's been going on. All I know is that I've been gone a long time."
Terry was waiting for this moment. His mother left so now he told Shelly everything he'd learned. He told her how she'd been replaced by the evil thing in the stuffed animal. The evil being made friends with him, most likely to get Callie. He told her that no one else knew about her being replaced and asked her to keep it a secret so his mother wouldn't worry. Callie would watch out for them and keep it from happening again.
Shelly agreed to keep the secret but she thought it odd that her new friend didn't mention anything about Trickster being a psychic vampire. He must not know she realized, and she didn't know if she should tell him. Then the enormity of the situation hit her. She hadn't just been imprisoned, she'd been replaced. It was horrifying to think about Trickster impersonating her and feeding on her friends and family. Then she thought about the baby girl she loved to babysit and gasped. It probably fed on little Suzy!
As soon as she imagined baby Suzy being tormented, Shelly's brave facade melted. She had the full story now. All of her suffering in Trickster's prison and thoughts of what it did in her place caught up to her. Tears and heavy sobs wracked her weak body. Her angry venting helped but it wasn't enough. She needed to let it all out.
Terry's heart went out to Shelly. He instinctively sat down next to her opposite Callie and hugged the sobbing girl.
There's nothing like a good cry. All the tension and stress dissipate, leaving room for happiness to come waltzing back into your life. Lasting happiness might take awhile in Shelly's case but something else was able to come back right away - hunger. The starving girl hadn't had enough to eat for weeks. Her stomach rumbled, causing the two friends to end the hug with a laugh.
"Come on," Terry said as he carefully shut Callie and helped his new friend up. "Let's go eat."
Gail had quickly started the washing machine and then cleaned up the shards of glass on the speckled linoleum floor. After setting the kitchen table for lunch there wasn't anything else to do. She didn't want to intrude on Terry and his guest so she sat down to eat.
It wasn't long before the two quiet teens showed up with their voracious appetites. Shelly sat down at the table while Terry served the soup and sandwiches and then joined in. Gail watched with amusement as they both inhaled their meal. It almost looked like a contest except for the fact that they didn't look at each other. If it was a contest, Shelly would've won. She looked so thin and frail but she ate significantly more than Terry. If she kept it up, she wouldn't be thin for long.
"Mmmmm... that was great. Thanks!" Shelly said as she licked her lips.
"You're welcome," Terry and Gail said in unison.
There's nothing like a good, hot meal to get the blood flowing. Shelly had nothing but foul tasting water and a bit of bland tasting slop in her prison. The soup and sandwich were like food of the gods in comparison. They were a fair bit more nutritious too. The malnourished girl regained some of her strength, including a bit of brain power, and finally realized she was wearing a bath robe.
"Ummmm... where are my clothes?" she asked.
"You were a bit ripe after your ordeal," started Gail. "I'm washing your clothes now." She didn't add anything about bathing her. Remembering that sad experience made her a little uncomfortable.
The three of them spent the next hour and a half talking, with a light background noise of shoes thumping in the dryer after Gail transferred the clothes from the washer. Shelly decided she liked these two people. She'd be very happy to call them both friends. She hoped she'd be able to keep her other friends - the ones alienated by Trickster.
The buzzing dryer announced the end of the conversation. Shelly had to get ready for her mother who'd be back soon to pick her up. She grabbed her clothes and went back upstairs to Terry's bedroom to change. Terry started to follow her when Gail reminded him what his friend was about to do. He blushed an adorable shade of bright red and sat back down at the kitchen table to nibble some sweet pickles.
Shelly slipped off the comfortable robe and crinkled her nose as she put on her clothes. She'd gotten tired of wearing them. They were an unpleasant reminder of her captivity but she had to wear something. After a quick and efficient dressing, she sat down to have another look at Callie's pages.
Callie had been hoping for another chance to talk to the girl. She'd had time to recharge a little and wanted to use a little magic to fix something. Callie had read Gail's thoughts about the mysterious change of clothes and knew the shirt color had to be changed if nothing else. She also wanted to discuss the possibility of teaming up to help a certain someone with an identity problem.
The girl opened Callie's cover and was surprised to see new writing near the top of the first page. "Hello Shelly. Feeling better now?"
"Yes. Much. What about you?"
"I was a little tired after using so much magic but I'm better now. I want to change your shirt to match what Trickster wore when he arrived. Is that okay?"
"Oh. Yeah. Good idea. So what was I wearing?"
"This!" Callie wrote in large letters as Shelly's shirt changed from a drab green to bright yellow, causing the girl to gasp in wonder. It didn't take too much energy to change the shirt color. The fabric hadn't changed but Shelly's mother shouldn't notice that little fact.
The rest of the time was spent having a nice girl-to-girl talk. Shelly already knew about magic so Callie figured it was okay to reveal more of herself to the girl. She told her about Terry's secret desires and how she was using magic to help him achieve those desires.
The revelations about Terry took Shelly a little by surprise. Girls were under a lot of peer pressure and didn't tolerate boys acting girlish. Luckily she'd been desensitized by her recent trauma. She also felt a bit sorry for him, especially when Callie explained how much he denied and fought his true feelings. He was not a happy person. In the end, she agreed to do whatever she could to help. They finished up just as Shelly's mother arrived to pick her up.
During the drive home, Shelly's mother didn't exactly notice her daughter's change in clothing, only that the yellow top clung tightly to the girl, making her look too skinny. She couldn't help but worry after that. It's a mother's duty to worry about her children. Concerns about various eating disorders would be voiced over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as Shelly continued to eat like a horse, going from skinny to average to overweight.
Understandingly, food had become an obsession with Shelly. During the last week of her imprisonment, she started to think she'd never enjoy a good meal again. After stuffing herself at Terry's, and over the next several days, overeating became a habit. She craved the wonderful smells and tastes and wanted to try everything. An element of fear also motivated her. Feeling hungry would remind her of Trickster's prison.
Terry was pleased with his new friend at first. They spent all their time together, both at school and at home. Shelly lived close to school - on the safe route that he should've taken - so he walked her home and stayed at her house until dinner time. Then he walked the rest of the way home without having to worry about bullies. He'd no longer have his hat ripped off his head and stomped in a mud puddle, and no more name calling. It was paradise.
Shelly's parents invited him for dinner quite often. They thought the two teens made a cute couple. It was tempting to accept but Terry didn't want to leave his mother home alone. They all understood.
At his mother's urging, he did accept a few dinner invitations. He watched his friend fill out nicely over the first couple weeks. She looked very healthy then. After a month however, the feeding frenzy showed no signs of going away, and Shelly ballooned into a plus size girl. Terry was quite concerned, as were Shelly's parents. Shelly didn't seem outwardly bothered, but it had an effect on her. She still hadn't completely recovered from her ordeal.
The abused girl had pretty much lost her other friends. Trickster snubbed and ignored them for too long while he'd taken over her life. They wanted nothing to do with the girl. She was also saddened to hear that baby Suzy's parents no longer asked her to babysit thanks to Trickster. It wasn't her fault but it still depressed her and hurt her self-esteem. All she had was Terry, her family and food. The pounds continued to accumulate at an alarming rate.
Shelly ended up taking Terry with her to shop as she outgrew her original clothes. She encouraged him since she knew he'd like it. There was an added benefit too. Shelly couldn't bear to part with her favorite old clothes so she had him secretly keep some of them for her. There wasn't room for all them in Terry's closet, and many had to be given away to relatives and charities, but she managed to hide some of them from her mother.
It was actually Callie's idea to squirrel away the clothes. Once again, she was trying to kill two birds with one stone. She didn't see the growing girl as often as Terry but the disturbing weight gain was obvious. She convinced Shelly to not give up on fitting into her old clothes. A leaner, healthier girl would eventually find her way back with enough help. Callie also noticed that the clothes fit Terry rather well so he had plenty of opportunities to dress up in clothes that were more to his liking. He felt a little guilty and embarrassed about wearing them but he was coerced into it during Shelly's weekend visits to his house. The girl insisted on seeing her clothes worn, to remind her of what she lost and motivate her to lose weight. Terry was made to realize that he was doing his friend a favor. Hopefully Shelly would wear them again someday.
Over the weeks, Callie continued her lucid dream therapy. She helped her owner grow used to wearing Shelly's clothes by having him wear them in his dreams. It also helped to tweak his body so the clothes would look better. The magic book never said anything about the body modifications translating to the real world. Terry's hands and arms were slender and feminine, and what little body hair he'd grown was gone except for those usual places boys and girls had in common. Terry's inner girl was happier than ever.
The feminized boy's fashion shows were a big hit with Shelly. He looked quite good in her old clothes. It made her long to be thin again. Too bad it did nothing to diminish her appetite. Now there was another teen who needed a good stiff push to force a change for the better.
* * * * *
It was well into February of the new year and Shelly's weight problem became too much for Terry to ignore. He had to say something. It was unhealthy to weigh as much as she did. Several rolls of fat hung around her middle, her upper arms and thighs shook with each step and she sported two and half chins. She huffed and puffed the short distance between school and home. Even the lightest of exercise was too much for her. Walking home from school took more than twice as long as it did before the severe weight gain, giving Terry plenty of time to have a long talk with her.
"Shelly? I'm really worried about you. Please Shelly. You've got to stop eating so much. It's not healthy."
Shelly dreaded this conversation. She saw it coming. It was inevitable. She'd been having it with her mother for weeks. She knew Terry would join in.
"I... I can't stop myself. I wish I could but I can't. I think I need help."
"What can we do? How can I help?"
The two teens dragged their feet more than usual, desperate to come up with a solution. They discussed hypnosis but were afraid certain secrets would come out. Liposuction and stomach stapling weren't very appealing either. Surgery seemed too extreme and frightening to the two youngsters.
Terry had a last resort that he was saving. Callie gave him an idea but he didn't like it. He hoped a good brainstorming session could come up with an alternative. When it became clear they were all out of fresh ideas, he reluctantly told her.
"Okay. This might sound a little odd. Callie and I discussed something that might do the trick."
"Oh?" Shelly said with a hopeful look.
Terry stopped and swallowed hard. This was the most difficult moment in his relatively short life but he had to help his friend. He couldn't stand seeing her eat herself to death. Of course the solution involved magic so he looked around to make sure no one else was around to hear.
"Callie can switch our bodies. I can be you and you can be me until you get your eating under control. Since you'll be living as me at my house, Callie can keep you from eating too much, and I'm sure I won't want to eat so much. I'll try to exercise more too."
There, he said it. Maybe she shouldn't want to do it. Maybe there was another solution, but at least Shelly could consider Callie's idea.
Shelly's eyes went wide when she realized Terry was serious. This would be an amazing experience for both of them. How many people get the chance to experience life as someone else? In spite of all the fantasy stories she read - something she was delighted to have in common with Terry - she was sure it wasn't more than a handful. She didn't say anything at first. Instead, she grabbed Terry in a bear hug and cried. It was the sweetest, nicest thing she'd ever heard.
Terry had to force himself to keep hugging his friend. She was his best friend but her fat made him uncomfortable, especially since it was obvious that she was accepting his offer. She whispered thank you in his ear between sobs. The fat he was hugging would soon be his own.
Chapter 6: Loss
Next Saturday came too soon. It was to be the day of the body swap. No one else would know - not even Gail if they roleplayed well enough like they planned. The two teens trudged upstairs to a waiting Callie. Shelly trudged because her heavy body was hard to move up the stairs. Terry dragged his feet because he wasn't looking forward to the swap.
Callie explained that they may have to swap for several weeks - maybe even months - before Shelly would be mentally ready to return to her body. She explained that her magic could only directly affect the body of the one she's bonded to, and that she's not sure what would happen after the swap. She'd never done one before. If the bond is to Terry's body, it would be easier to help Shelly, leaving Terry to struggle in Shelly's body. He'd have to lose weight slowly by diet and exercise. If the bond was with Terry's mind it would go with him to his new body. She'd be able to help him slenderize but they could have some trouble keeping Shelly from obsessing with food. It wasn't a perfect plan but it was better than nothing.
Now it was time for the big event. The two teens sat on the bed with the blue, star-studded comforter, one on either side of Callie. They closed their eyes, clasping and resting their hands on the magic book. Terry held his breath. It was all quiet except for Shelly's heavy breathing. She was still winded from walking up the short flight of stairs.
The process took only a few seconds. Their hands tingled and they felt like they were moving somehow. The next thing he knew, Terry was gasping for breath. He felt heavy and stuffed. It was done.
Shelly immediately bounced up off the bed, leaving Terry to wallow in self-pity. It would take him a lot longer to get used to his new body.
"I'm thin again! Thin!" she said, laughing and jumping.
And I'm not, thought Terry, who stayed sitting on the bed. He managed to smile at his friend's happiness but inside he was cold and dark.
Shelly could sense Terry's mood and restrained herself as best she could. It wasn't fair to her friend. She sat back down on the bed and hugged her old body.
"Thank you so much Terry! This means so much to me."
"You're welcome. But remember to use the right name... Terry."
"Oh! Right... Shelly," the new Terry said with a wink.
"Okay. Can I have some time alone with Callie please? I have something I'd like to talk to her about."
"Sure! I'll be out in the back yard. You can call me back from my bedroom window." With that, the new boy rushed out of the room and bounded down the stairs. He couldn't wait to see what his body could do.
The new Shelly couldn't help smile at her friend's enthusiasm. She watched her old body leave and then turned to her magic friend with a sigh.
"I don't suppose you can remove some of this weight right away. It feels awful."
The book didn't reply.
"Callie? Can you hear me?"
Something was plainly wrong. Terry had a bad feeling as he opened the front cover.
There on Callie's pages was the answer, adding to the obese teen's distress. It was so easy to be depressed in this body, he decided.
"I'm so sorry Terry! It looks like I'm bonded with Shelly now. You're going to have to get used to that body."
So there it was. He was now a very large she, and 'she' could no longer speak to his magic friend. That wasn't the end of the bad news however. Terry's new stomach wasn't used to being ignored for so long. The first of many severe hunger pangs had begun. Their arrival was announced by a growling stomach, reminding Callie to jot down some more unpleasant thoughts.
"As for starting your weight loss plan, I don't think you should start - not yet."
"What?!" Terry blurted.
"We want to cause any suspicion. A sudden, drastic change in behavior might cause problems. We should make the change more gradual. Shelly didn't say anything because she was too embarrassed but she's been in therapy for her compulsive eating. Her therapist will need some careful handling."
"You could've told me earlier," grumbled the girl.
"I didn't think it was important."
"Can you at least do something about these hunger pangs?"
"I'm sorry but I can't. They'll help you stay in character at least."
"Great," Terry grunted as he heaved himself up from his old bed.
"Where are you going?"
Terry gave Callie a final look and a parting shot.
"I'm going downstairs to get something to eat."
* * * * *
The two teens had no trouble hiding their body swap. Terry was already an accomplished girl thanks to his previous lucid dream sessions with Callie and Shelly was too busy running around enjoying her healthy body to make anyone think she wasn't anything but a teenage boy. The only thing that threatened to give them away was talking too much. That wasn't really a problem since they were both known for being shy. They continued their shy ways and no one was the wiser, not even Shelly's therapist.
The new Shelly continued packing on the weight as part of the plan. It was a rough time but her two friends helped her through it. It frightened her how easily it was for her to eat too much. She added 20 pounds over the next couple weeks before Callie thought it was time to start eating less. Shelly's family thought the therapy sessions had finally begun to help. They were ecstatic.
The old Shelly continued her obsession with food as Terry. Callie had to magically suppress his appetite and help him shed any extra pounds he managed to gain. Luckily, his fast metabolism and frequent exercise made weight gain difficult. Callie hoped he'd eventually get over his obsession on his own but she was ready with lucid dream therapy if necessary.
Academically, school wasn't too bad for the large girl. She shared many of the same classes as Terry and had no trouble doing well in all of them. Physical Education class - or PE as everyone called it - wasn't the problem she feared. She was excused because of her eating disorder.
Both teens were very smart, though Terry did suddenly have trouble with algebra since he'd only made it to pre-algebra as a girl. He needed some tutoring from Shelly. His only real concern was that he was afraid of seeing other boys in the shower. He was attracted to them and had to force himself not to stare. Callie still blocked his male hormones so at least he didn't have to worry about an erection.
After two more weeks, Shelly slowly returned to a normal diet, but she was fatter and more miserable than ever. She gained another 10 pounds before her weight stabilized, forcing her to buy a larger sized wardrobe for the second time since she became Shelly. At least Callie said she could finally begin dieting and exercising. Hope was far away down a bumpy, winding road.
The overweight girl spent a lot of time in her room, moping. It was a pleasant enough room. The real Shelly was obviously fond of trees and the color green. Several posters with lush tropical and temperate rain forests adorned mint green walls. A frilly sage green comforter covered her queen size bed and dark green curtains framed a small bedroom window that offered a depressingly boring view of the back yard. There were a couple small fruit trees and a hanging bird feeder in back that attracted many species of small birds for a little entertainment. It was mentally and physically difficult for her to stand and watch the small hungry birds though. Her fat hung heavier than ever.
At first she was afraid of looking around the room. She was pleased to find a moderate sized bookshelf with lots of interesting fantasy and science fiction books, but there was also a mine field of tempting snacks that the previous occupant had hidden to satisfy her cravings. The new Shelly would find a candy bar and find herself unwrapping it and stuffing it into her mouth out of habit and boredom. It was gone before she knew what she was doing. Then she'd severely chastise herself. She wouldn't lose weight that way.
Dieting was easy compared to exercise. The determined girl started walking and slowly worked her way up to a mile before problems threatened to limit her progress. Her thighs rubbed together uncomfortably and she had to take several showers a day to deal with the streams of perspiration that trickled down her body. She also developed a heat rash and had to sprinkle medicated powder between her rolls of fat. She worked hard and got nothing but insults in school. She was still fat and would be continue to be fat for the rest of the school year. At least she had the support of friends and family. They helped her to keep going.
Shelly had dreaded menstruation but it wasn't a totally negative experience. She couldn't help being a little curious about it after all. Her first period wasn't too uncomfortable and didn't last long. The old Shelly tutored the new girl in feminine hygiene and explained that her obesity actually helped reduce the symptoms. They both agreed they'd gladly endure more discomfort in exchange for being a slender girl.
* * * * *
It was early May and the dieting and exercise finally paid off. It was difficult but Shelly wanted to wait until the upcoming weekend to tell both of her friends the good news. She'd lost the 30 pounds she'd gained since her swap and another 10 pounds besides that.
As soon as Saturday morning rolled around, the excited girl rushed as fast as her legs could move her over to Terry's house. She made it a habit to walk there often to help her lose weight. They ended up in Terry's bedroom for their usual talk.
"I'm down two dress sizes," beamed Shelly. "At this rate, I'll have you back to your original self by late summer. I'll get you into a bikini yet."
"You do look slimmer," Terry said with a sigh.
Shelly couldn't help but catch the sigh and wonder. Something was up again.
"So how are you doing?" she carefully asked.
"My food cravings are totally under control but I'm worried about reverting, especially if we swap back too soon."
Terry was careful not to say that she was still too fat for his taste but the look on his face seemed to imply it. The large girl had become sensitive to discrimination and felt a little hurt. She swallowed her pride though and carried on. She mentally reminded herself that it wasn't really her body.
"Don't worry. We don't have to swap back any time soon. I'm starting to have fun getting this body into shape. It's getting easier to walk over here now."
Terry looked out his bedroom window and sighed again. "That's good," he said after a slight pause. He seemed distracted by something. There was something he wanted to say but he didn't yet have the nerve. Shelly recognized the behavior and continued probing.
"My family has taken some getting used to. My mom and I talk quite a lot and I enjoy having a dad. I love to call him daddy. How are you and your mom getting along?"
That was a tactical error. She didn't realize how much she missed her real mother until that point. She missed Gail and she missed her old life. It had only been just under two months but she felt like her old self was slipping away. Everyone else saw her as the girl she was and now she started thinking of herself only as Shelly. It was a little disturbing to her but she tried to focus on figuring out what was bothering Terry.
"Fine. Good... but...," Terry paused again. He was on the edge of a revelation and just needed a little pushing.
"But there's something else you want to tell me," Shelly finished for him. "Come on. Spit it out then. I won't bite."
Terry finally broke down and told her he missed being a girl. He missed it so much that he had Callie make him all girl sometimes when he was home alone. Callie told him it was possible during one of their talks and he jumped at the chance. He didn't return to his old body - Callie was concerned that would trigger more compulsive overeating. Instead, he became the girl that he'd look like if his body was born a girl.
That got Shelly's full attention. She could relate to having a conflicted gender identity, though she wasn't sure if she was really a boy in a girl's body anymore. She actually wondered if she related more to being a boy wanting to be a girl. When she was a boy, she certainly dreamed about being a girl often enough, even before she'd got Callie.
"Would you like to see me as a girl?" Terry shyly asked after seeing Shelly's obvious interest.
"Yeah!" Shelly blurted out. "But what about your mom?"
"It won't be for long. She won't find out."
"Unless we get an attack of the giggles and she comes up to find out what's going on," Shelly teased.
"Silly girl. Don't worry. I can handle it," Terry countered with a grin.
Callie stood by, waiting for her cue. Within only a few minutes, she transformed Terry into a teenage girl. Shelly was speechless.
"Oh my goodness! You're beautiful!" Shelly finally gasped.
Terry couldn't help herself now. Encouraged by Shelly's reaction, she flew to her closet to truly complete her transformation. Shelly's old clothes still fit Terry's new form so it was time for a new outfit, and it wasn't long after that before another fashion show started. The two of them spent a couple hours together hiding up in Terry's bedroom and sharing the joy of being a teenage girl. Having both experienced the frustration of being the wrong gender could only make their friendship grow even stronger.
* * * * *
Shelly threw herself into her exercise plan with even more determination after Terry's fashion show. It didn't occur to her to be envious during the show - she was too happy for her friend - but she was envious now. Terry made a very pretty girl and Shelly was concerned he would never want to swap back. It was irrational but she couldn't help feeling that way. She took full advantage of her nervous energy and the pounds melted away.
Callie was pleased with herself. Coming up with the body swap idea was a master stroke. Terry would be much easier to steer in the right direction after being Shelly for so long. Now if only Shelly could make more progress getting over her obsession with food.
The frustrated book had to start the real Shelly on some lucid dream therapy. Changing Shelly's current body into a girl now and then seemed to help but it wasn't enough. The boy had been having some bad dreams and sometimes reverted to overeating. With her blonde dream body, Callie had Shelly roleplay various scenarios that always involved the true girl as her original lean self. She tried to show Shelly how much more there was to life than food, emphasizing how much fun she'd been having in Terry's slender, active body.
It still wasn't clear why Terry became obsessed with food. Trickster's torture sessions obviously had something to do with it but the dark one was locked away now. There didn't seem to be a reason for overeating.
Callie eventually thought to peek in on Terry's bad dreams for clues and found they were always the same. Terry was back in his old body as Shelly, trapped in Trickster's prison. She was being slowly starved and passed the time by daydreaming about food. After a long time had passed, a mirror suddenly appeared along with a small table full of hamburgers, potato chips, cake and ice cream. It wasn't the healthiest food but Shelly wasn't fussy. She was just preparing to gorge herself when she glanced in the mirror. The reflection that looked back was a hugely obese version of herself holding a fat, juicy hamburger with drool running down her chin. It was disgusting. She still wore the same clothes but now they were stretched very tightly and uncomfortably. She looked down at her skinny body and noticed her clothes were stretched tightly on her - a simple illusion by Trickster of course. She began to worry that she really was fat and was hallucinating that she was thin. The inner conflict grew until rage erupted. She violently upended the table and shattered the mirror to end the dream.
That explains a lot, thought a very sad Callie. How could anyone do that to someone?
The nightmare deeply disturbed Callie but she had to think about it and find a way to take away its hold on Shelly. Getting fat had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The girl subconsciously believed herself to be fat and then overate to make it a reality. Added to that was several weeks of severe anxiety about not getting enough to eat. Put it all together and you end up with a very obese girl in a very short period of time.
The magic book decided she'd been on the right track with the lucid dreams, but now she supplemented it with reality. She had several 'talks' with Gail about the importance of a healthy diet. She wanted to get Terry in the habit of eating good food now so he'd keep the habit throughout his life. She only implied that it would also be good for Gail. That meant fewer trips to restaurants - especially fast food and steak houses - and hopefully no quick, convenient frozen dinners. Nice restaurants and sweets would be reserved for special occasions. Depriving oneself of treats might cause resentment and trigger binges. She also had Terry help his mother prepare their meals. He'd have to work before he could eat. He couldn't just have it placed in front him so he could shovel in the food.
Callie added one more thing before she declared Terry to be on the road to complete recovery. It was another brilliant idea and helped Terry and Shelly stay close. Every day they could, they'd pack a modest lunch and walk together to various remote parks, far from stores and vending machines. It wouldn't be possible to overeat that way. They'd get much needed exercise and would be away from temptation for most of the day.
* * * * *
It was the middle of August and Callie was more than a little wistful. She felt like her usefulness was coming to an end. Both of her friends had graduated from 8th grade and would soon be on their way to high school. Shelly was down to her ideal weight and Terry was completely over his eating disorder. They'd swap back this coming Saturday and Terry would eagerly blossom into a beautiful young lady along with Shelly. It would be the perfect storybook ending but she didn't want it to end. Part of her wished it could go on forever.
There was only one thing she didn't like over the past several months. She missed not being able to speak out loud to Shelly and Terry together. She wanted to continue to develop her humanity with some lively girl talk. Terry was still shy by himself but when Shelly came over and Terry became a girl, they chatted incessantly. It was an amazing change, and very interesting and informative to listen to. Clothes and shopping were discussed more than anything else, with Classmates and family not far behind. Callie laughed when Shelly told Terry about her mother gushing over having her little girl back.
There was another amazing change too. Shelly's ideal weight had increased slightly since last year. She was a curvy young woman now. It ran in her family. She no longer fit in her old clothes that were stored at Terry's house, but she really didn't mind. They weren't exactly her style anyway and she decided that she liked being curvy, in spite of getting lustful looks from teenage boys. She still much preferred girls over boys of course.
Callie stopped her reminiscing and sighed as best a book can. Lately it felt like she was stagnating. She couldn't chat with her friends and wouldn't be developing curves as far as she could tell. She wondered if she was slipping into a depression. That would be a very human thing to do. It should've pleased her, but then it wouldn't be depression. Oh the irony.
It might be selfishness on her part to want a better life but there was more to it. She wanted to continue progressing so she could better help people. Helping people was her first priority and her first love.
There weren't a lot of options left since being cooped up in the bedroom. Terry's mother was a possibility. Gail had issues that deserved attention but the book didn't want to leave Terry's bedroom. She had to stand guard over a certain dark being in the back of the closet. That led to her second option. It wasn't pleasant but it would certainly be a challenge. If she could help Trickster, she could help anyone. It was decided then - by her alone since she didn't think anyone else would approve. She'd try to help the dark being.
Contact began with simple, light probing that read his surface thoughts. She'd checked on him from time to time, making sure he was still there, but she didn't go deeper. Trickster made communication difficult. He was too intense. Every moment of his being was filled with hate and thoughts of revenge. It was the only thing that kept him somewhat sane.
Contrary to his belief that he'd die without feeding on negative emotions, he was still very much alive, but it was true that his energy level was much lower. He'd been slowly shrinking into a concentrated cloud of negativity. While he liked to think that his thirst for revenge kept him going, it really drained him more than it helped. If he kept at it long enough, he'd grow weak enough that he wouldn't be able to cause any trouble. Then he'd be nothing more than a harmless wisp.
Trickster was so absorbed in his own little world, he didn't detect Callie's probing for the several minutes. Eventually she pushed hard enough that he noticed.
"What?! Who's there?! What do you want?!" he demanded.
Callie pulled back and left him to wonder what was happening, waiting until tomorrow to renew her probing. She was playing a game of cat and mouse, not thinking that she was dealing with an expert. She couldn't comprehend an evil, devious mind because she'd never been evil. It was a dangerous game.
Trickster didn't get an answer but he knew who it was. He felt the unmistakable power. It was the first time in months that he'd felt it but he'd remember it anywhere. It snapped him out of his vengeful daydreams, allowing him to focus.
So the book is taking an interest in me, he thought. This could prove interesting.
The dark one thought back to his last encounter when his former prisoner had confronted him. He'd learned something that day. Shelly had pitied him at first, before that meddling book made it personal. Maybe it was time to share what he learned.
The next day started out as before, with Callie paying a visit to the tiger prison. Trickster was ready this time.
"Hello Book," he projected in a tired mental voice. "Did you come here to gloat?"
"Oh!" said a surprised Callie. "You're not fuming. I thought you'd be fuming."
"I'm too tired to fume. Besides, look where it's gotten me."
"In prison," Callie couldn't help responding. "You brought it on yourself you know. How could you do such terrible things to people?"
"I did it to survive. I never killed anyone at least."
"Oh, and that makes it okay? You tortured people! You tortured Shelly! She's been a mess... until I helped her overcome it."
Trickster had to suppress a cruel laugh at the mention of Shelly. He was so close now. The naive book just served him another tasty bit of information he could use against her. It wouldn't do to laugh and ruin his chances.
"I just did what I had to. You wouldn't understand. You can't. You think you're so superior. You think people need your help. Well they don't! People are stronger than you think. That which doesn't kill them makes them stronger."
Callie was shocked. No one had ever talked to her like this before. No one ever questioned her motives or ability to help. Thanks and praise was all she was used to getting in exchange for her services.
"How can you talk to me like that? I'm trying to help you! I really want to help."
"Yeah. Right. Like anyone would want to help someone like me. Who are you trying to deceive?"
"I'm not lying! I never lie!"
"This conversation is over. I've had all I can take today."
Now it was Trickster's turn to back away. He retreated into his inner self and ignored the magic book's pleading to talk things out. It was time to let her stew for awhile.
The reverse psychology worked. Callie was more determined than ever to help the dark and twisted soul. She never failed to help anyone and she wasn't going to fail this time either.
"Hello Trickster," she said. "That's right. I know your name. I can read your thoughts. I know how sick and twisted you really are. You can't hide anything from me."
Trickster didn't expect her to go on the offensive. That made the battle all the more delicious. He could hide and misdirect his thoughts better than anyone. She'd only get what he wanted her to get. When she first captured him, he didn't hide his thoughts. He was too angry. Now it was different. She'd become overconfident.
"Oh. You again," he continued in his tired voice. "Why are you persecuting me? Haven't you done enough already? Isn't it enough that I'm trapped in this tiny prison?"
He tried his best to sound as pathetic as possible and it was working. Callie's resolve wavered. She hoped to get him to talk about his evil deeds so he'd feel some remorse. She wanted him to think about what he'd done but thought he'd need a good push. She couldn't give up on him. She just couldn't.
"Don't talk to me about persecution. You persecuted thousands over the centuries. What kind of punishment can make up for all the suffering you caused?"
"Who makes you my judge? What gives you the right to judge me? I happen to know you caused some suffering yourself. I don't know what your game is but the girlie boy had your magic all over him. He suffered a lot at school thanks to you."
This was too much. Callie gasped when she realized the dark one was right. She tried to help Terry and so far all she did was push him into one stressful situation after another. Her last attempt at helping him left him trapped in the body of an obese girl. He had to work hard to lose weight and she heard about the insults he suffered at school. He was insulted as a boy and insulted as a girl. What had she become? Whatever it was, it couldn't be as bad as Trickster. No one could be that bad. She had to collect herself and work through her own issues later.
The dark one scored another point in his mind. He decided to quit while he was ahead. He withdrew into himself again to end the conversation, leaving Callie frustrated and feeling guilty.
It was Friday - the day before the two teens were to be returned to their rightful bodies. It should be a time for reflection and joy. Callie just fretted about how to reach Trickster. He was proving to be quite a challenge. It didn't occur to her that up to now, everyone she'd helped was a worthy cause. Trickster was the exception. The only help he needed was to escape his prison so he could steal her magic and start his reign of terror. She couldn't think of any more ideas other than the obvious one. She'd try the direct approach.
"Okay Trickster. Let's start over. If you ever hope to be free of your prison you have to learn to be nicer."
"What?! Are you serious? I know what I am. I'm an emotional vampire! I can't change. I just can't."
The dark one pulled out all the stops now. He made it sound like he was on the verge of tears. He'd escape his ridiculous prison if he could just get closer to the magic.
Come closer, book, he willed. Come closer.
"Everyone can change if they really want to. Do you want to change?"
Trickster pretended to break down with that question. He cried that he didn't always enjoy feeding on the pain and suffering of others, but it gave him a strange high that became addictive. After a long time, his addiction desensitized him to what he did, and eventually he grew to like it. He associated the suffering of others with pleasure in himself. How could he not enjoy it after centuries of doing it?
Callie sensed the truth in what he said. He couldn't hide the truth when he communicated directly to her. It could only be hidden by shielding it behind layers of other thoughts. As he recounted his long life, she sensed his genuine despair when he first felt himself giving in to his dark desires. That was all it took to get her sympathy. Finally there was something she could understand about him.
During all of her previous visits, she mentally distanced herself from the dark being, but now her nurturing instinct took over. She formed her blonde dream body and moved closer to try to embrace him. He seemed to need a shoulder to cry on.
Trickster saw his chance and took it. He consolidated his own mental presence into an androgynous dream body and as soon as she hugged him, he struck. He was a master of swapping bodies and had no trouble swapping with an unsuspecting Callie. Before she knew what hit her, she was stuck inside the tiger and a jubilant Trickster was humming with the magic power of the book.
The tiger was still stuffed in the back of the closet where no one would see it. If someone did see it, they might notice that it no longer wore a sneer on it's face. The sneer was replaced by a slight frown.
There'd be no swapping back for anyone anytime soon.
Chapter 7: Blood
Terry couldn't wait for Shelly to come over. He'd been trying to communicate with Callie all morning to no avail. He called Shelly on the phone and had her come over right away. He was too upset to give the details. He just told her to hurry.
Shelly arrived less than 30 minutes later to find Terry pacing nervously up and down the upstairs hallway.
"What's wrong? What is it?" Shelly asked.
"Callie can't talk or write. We're supposed to swap back today but I can't reach her. What are we going to do?!"
"Try to calm down Terry. We've done okay so far. We'll be fine. It's Callie I'm worried about. What exactly do you mean she can't talk or write?"
Terry went on to explain that Callie could make noises but it was just gibberish. There were also random marks on the pages that were equivalent to the noises she was making. It's like she forgot how to communicate.
Trickster was truly upset now. He had great power at his fingertips but he couldn't figure out how to control it. It was so subtle and complicated. Just when he thought he had something figured out, he'd be distracted by a different possible magic effect and he lost all of his progress. If he didn't get the hang of it soon, he just might swap back with Callie.
Writing on the pages of the book seemed like it should be relatively easy so he finally decided to concentrate on that. His penmanship was shaky but he started to make some progress. After 15 minutes, he spelled out the word "help" in block letters and waited for the teens to see it.
Shelly saw the word first. She wanted to see what the marks looked like and read the plea for help. Now she was quite upset too. Nothing like this had ever happened as far she knew.
She wanted to ask Florence about it but didn't know exactly what to say. She didn't think she should say anything since she was no longer bonded with the book - and since Florence didn't know about the body swap. She'd have to get Terry to do it somehow, but he needed to relax first. He was truly a nervous wreck.
Trickster felt the familiar glow return to his body. He could still feed on negative emotions. He was still a psychic vampire. His plan was working so far. He hoped to worry the two teens and feed off of them. The magic energy of the book was great but it wasn't the same. He needed a boost of emotional energy.
Callie could sense a little of what was going on around her. She'd managed to take a small amount of magic with her during the forced swap. The magic kept her sense of self alive and allowed her a few limited actions, but it left her feeling small and alone.
Her first thought was to try to find a way to communicate with Terry. She was very worried. She had to find a way to warn him. It wouldn't be easy because she could no longer feel her bond with him. The book was still bonded with him but she was no longer in control of the book. She was trapped in the little lost tiger in the back of the closet.
Trickster felt much better having fed. He got back to the task at hand and started understanding how the book worked. All he had to do was think about what he wanted to do and relax. He thought about writing something and the words started to flow. That was the key to working the magic. It had to be channeled and then left alone to do its work. The evil being had made the mistake of trying too hard to control it. It was still slow and tedious work but it was getting easier by the word.
"That's better," he wrote after a couple minutes. "I can write now."
Shelly had been going back and forth between the book and Terry, frantically trying to help at least one of them. She saw the new text appearing on the front page and called her friend over to share the good news.
"So what happened? Why couldn't you write or talk?" Terry whined.
It was understandable why Terry was by far the more upset teen. He didn't want to be stuck as a homosexual boy for the rest of his life. He'd been Shelly for too long and didn't think he could cope with such a drastic change. Shelly on the other hand had grown quite fond of her body. The only thing she was concerned about was Callie's welfare.
The book again took a couple minutes with it's next message. The writing was still improving but there were more words this time.
"I was almost completely drained. I had to fend off the evil thing in the tiger. He nearly escaped!"
Shelly and Terry watched with impatience as the words slowly appeared on the page. The book wasn't nearly as fast a writer as they were used to. When the last word was finished, it created quite a shock.
"What?!" both teenagers cried.
"Don't worry. Everything is under control. You're safe."
Then Trickster mentally added, "for now."
* * * * *
Trickster wasn't nearly as patient or ethical as Callie. He'd do whatever he wanted with the magic of the book. Luckily for everyone, he continued having trouble controlling it. After his initial success with writing, he expected to make good progress, so frustration set in after only a few days. Something else also occurred to him to add to his foul mood - he was still trapped.
The book that gave him his new power also held him prisoner. He couldn't leave the book and take the power with him like he hoped. He couldn't leave the book, period. That meant trouble for the book's current owner. Trickster couldn't torment a wide assortment of victims like he wanted. He'd have to double his efforts with Terry and Terry's friends and family to satisfy his large appetite.
The dark fiend still had to worry about arousing suspicion so he kept using the excuse of being too drained to talk or do much of anything. He said that he felt like he might need several weeks to get back to full power. That should give him enough time to learn how to use the magic. Terry and Shelly continued to encourage the magic book to rest and recharge.
The stalling had one good side effect. The two teens secretly agreed not to ask about being returned to their bodies. They didn't want to pressure Callie and make her feel bad about not being able to swap them back. They'd leave it to her to say when she was ready. That meant Trickster didn't know that his developing obsession was based on a false premise. He would've reacted much differently if he knew he was really bonded with Shelly.
Anger and desperation soon led the dark being to a single obsession. He would take out his frustration on Terry by physically making the girlie boy more like a real girl. That was a proven way to get results in the past. If he could do that, he should be able to create enough anxiety to keep him sated until he could figure out more of the magic.
He knew it was possible to make physical changes in humans. He'd seen the magic after effects when he first met Terry in the school lunch room. During the day he meditated on finding the proper technique and by night he practiced on Terry while the boy slept. With proper focus and strong motivation for revenge, it didn't take long to start making changes. He'd modify a body part and then change it back for practice. Now all he had to do was decide on exactly what to change.
Breasts didn't seem like a good first choice. They'd be too extreme a change and would be too hard to hide. He wanted a long-term solution - something easy to hide yet still able to create large amounts of anxiety. The face was obviously too visible and arms and legs were too androgynous at his young age. That only left the lower torso. Larger hips would be interesting. Make them large enough and the boy would have to wear girl's pants. That would be too obvious though so there was only one thing left. It was the perfect part too. The dark being would've slapped himself for missing it if he could. Tonight there'd be some changes.
* * * * *
Terry woke up feeling a little sad. He missed Callie's lucid dreams, missed hearing her voice and he especially missed his time as a girl. He also felt a little guilty and chastised himself. It was selfish to be thinking only of himself. Callie went through a lot and needed time to recharge. He had to be strong.
It was a Thursday but it was still summer, and as usual he got up fairly late in the morning. School was two weeks away so there was plenty of time to adjust to an earlier schedule. He stretched and slowly rolled out of bed. His feet somehow found and wormed their way into his slippers and then led him to the bathroom.
He normally sat down to pee. He was used to it since he'd been a girl most of his life, and he didn't appreciate the convenience of standing. He felt the convenience was outweighed by having to clean up the splattering afterwards. Yuck! Being able to stand came in handy in public restrooms and in the middle of the woods, but not at home.
So Terry didn't notice the tinkling sound and the different feel of the urine stream. He was too groggy. When he finished, he reached down to give his odd little appendage a shake and his fingertip slipped into the outer folds of his new pussy. The morning fog in his brain burned off instantaneously when that happened.
"What?!" he screamed.
It was good thing his mother had left for work long ago. She wasn't home to hear it.
Trickster waited impatiently for Terry to discover his sex change. The evil one was anxious to feed. He was low on energy once again. It was ironic since he was surrounded by such a strong source of power in the book.
When the scream came, it was magic moment. Fear and anguish flowed into him like water from a fire hose. The greedy being absorbed it all and eagerly waited for the inevitable discussion that would bring him seconds.
Terry still had the presence of mind to properly wipe and wash his hands. Then he came running back to his bedroom to confront his book. Even though he thought Callie would never do something like this, she was the only possible cause.
"Callie! What did you do?!" Terry demanded.
"What do you mean?"
The words flowed quickly now. Trickster had mastered that much, allowing for a somewhat normal conversation.
"You know what I mean! I'm a girl!"
"You look the same to me," the book countered. Trickster could extend his senses and see things much the same way as Callie had when she was in the book.
"Not between my legs I don't. You changed me! Why?! How?! I thought you were recharging."
Now the dark one had to get creative. It was easy enough to do considering the centuries of practice he had deceiving people. It took a lot of creativity to be a devious psychic vampire.
"Wait a minute... oh dear. Oh dear me," Trickster wrote.
"What? What is it?"
"It looks like things are worse than I thought. Not only have I lost most of my power, the power I have is a little out of control."
"A little out of control?! You call this a little out of control?!" Terry pointed to his crotch with a trembling index finger.
"It can't be helped. You're stuck that way I'm afraid. You'll have to wait until I can find a way to change you back."
Terry just groaned in response.
"Now if you'll excuse me," Trickster wrote, "I need more rest." With that said, the evil fiend laughed to himself and dug into the emotional meal before him.
The upset teen chewed his lower lip with frustration. He wanted to be a girl but not this way. It was hard enough to pass as a boy with his behavior and his androgynous appearance. There was no way he could pass if he had female hormones. He'd slowly develop into a girl and would get a lot of abuse along the way. He didn't even want to think of having to take a shower after PE class. There was no way he could hide his new sex in the locker room showers. High school was two weeks away but the last two weeks of the summer always flew by like a hurricane. He had to hope Callie would be able to change him back before then.
* * * * *
Just as Terry feared, the two weeks did fly by quickly, with barely a peep from the messed up book. Feelings of anxiety were strong, so Trickster didn't feel the need for further communication. When pressed, all he'd say is that he needed more rest.
The female boy confided in Shelly after the first week when it looked like Callie wouldn't be able to do anything. Shelly tried to distract him with shopping and various outdoor activities. It helped a little.
High school started with orientation and class registration. Terry tried to get out of PE class but it was a requirement for the first two years of high school. Nothing would get him out of PE except a chronic medical condition and a note from the family doctor. Of course he wouldn't think of asking his mother for something like that. He knew she'd demand to know why and he couldn't bear to tell her the reason. There was also no way he'd let a doctor see him.
Creativity was never his best trait but it was out of the question now. He was too nervous to think straight. At least he was still clever enough to think of asking someone else. Shelly was the most creative person he knew. She'd be able to think of a way out of this mess.
Shelly looked sadly at her friend when he asked for help. She thought he really should tell his mother but he wouldn't listen. So she developed a plan. He'd still have to change into gym clothes for the class but he didn't have to shower afterwards if he didn't exert himself too much. He could say he had allergies and mild asthma so he couldn't participate much. He could also bring clean gym clothes everyday so he wouldn't have to worry about body odor.
Terry thought his friend's plan was workable. He'd try it for a month or two to give Callie a chance to change him back. If he was still a girl after that, he promised to tell his mother.
* * * * *
Both Terry and Shelly thought high school was definitely better than junior high even though Terry had to walk to school by himself. Shelly was farther away from the school than he was now and her parents insisted that she ride the bus. He missed walking with her.
The school itself was very modern and nice looking. It was low and spread out with a sky bridge between the school and a very large gymnasium. It included an auditorium and a separate building with a pool on a small hill that overlooked the campus. The warm earth tones of the buildings blended well into the trees and surrounding landscape. All in all it was a welcome change from the junior high school prison look.
Most of the classes from their previous school were interesting but there was a lot more variety now. That made a big difference. Sometimes, while walking home from school, Terry found himself looking forward to 9th grade. If only he didn't have to take PE.
Shelly's plan to hide her friend's new gender was working to a degree. No one was the wiser, though the boys in PE class teased Terry incessantly about being wimpy and not showering. He barely registered the teasing. He was too focused on hiding his lack of a penis. It didn't seem possible but his anxiety increased with each passing day.
* * * * *
Four weeks had passed since the magical sex change - two weeks into school. It was a school day and as was often the case, his mother had to shake him awake to get him to start getting ready. She always did it shortly before she had to leave for work and then waited to make sure he got up. He could easily fall back asleep if left by himself, even with his radio alarm clock blaring.
This particular Friday morning was different from Terry's usual routine. He didn't feel well and his discomfort helped wake him up. He reached over to shut off his loud radio and that's when he felt dampness between his legs. His first thought was that he peed in his sleep. Bedwetting was bad but the real reason was ultimately worse. He reluctantly pulled the covers off to find blood staining the crotch of his pajamas. That prompted a scream that was louder than his radio alarm clock had ever been. It had been so long since the last time he experienced a period, he'd forgotten what it was like. He never stayed a girl long enough to have one when Callie had changed him. He thought something was seriously wrong with him and freaked out.
Gail came running when she heard her son scream. She added a scream of her own when she saw the blood on his pajamas. It didn't help matters when she started pulling them off. She insisted on seeing what was causing the bleeding.
It finally clicked for Terry when his mom arrived. He realized what was happening but it was too late to hide it from her now. With surprising calm he fended off his mother and slowly pulled down his pajama bottoms.
Gail was shocked. She always thought her son was happy being a boy. Sure he had his down moments, and he was a bit sensitive for a boy. She didn't see this coming though. She sat down on the bed, hung her head low and gently wept to mourn the loss of her son.
Terry comforted his mother as best he could. He was distracted by the stickiness between his legs so it was difficult to get close to her. He stopped trying after a couple minutes and went to the bathroom to clean up after himself. His memories of being in this situation before came back to him and he impulsively called out to his mother like everything was normal.
"Hey mom! Do you have a tampon I could borrow?"
That did it. Gail sprang from the bed and ran to her bedroom, slamming the door behind her.
Terry chewed his lower lip again. It was becoming a habit and a telltale sign of his anxiety. He dug through the cupboard in the bathroom and helped himself to some of Gail's feminine hygiene supplies. Then he went to listen in on his mother.
He couldn't hear anything with his ear up against the door so he decided to chance another question. He couldn't hear her crying into her pillow.
"Does this mean I don't have to go to school?"
Terry changed clothes and waited on his bed, ignoring his hunger pangs. He never got an answer from his mom so he stayed home. For now, he dreaded school more than he dreaded dealing with his mother. As his stomach continued to growl, he noted with some satisfaction that at least he was well over his obsession with food.
After Gail cried herself out, she went to the bathroom to clean up her ruined makeup. Then she called in sick to work. She wasn't about to try handling her temperamental boss when her son needed help.
The inevitable showdown occurred and Terry tried to defend Callie by making it sound like the accident he truly believed it to be. When Gail would have none of that, he finally admitted to her that he'd really rather be a girl. It was true for the real Terry as well as himself so he thought she should know. It was better to deal with it now anyway. With his current large supply of female hormones, it wouldn't be possible to hide it for too much longer. He didn't consider telling her about the body swap, especially without consulting Shelly first. That would just complicate things.
Gail still wouldn't listen to her son. It was clear in her mind that Callie had totally failed him. She refused to believe that he wanted to be a girl. At the rate she was going, it would take her years to accept in spite of his menstruation. It was just too much for her. So she did the only thing she could think of. She went to her sister for help. Florence was financially well off and only worked part time so she should be home. Her sister would talk some sense into her son.
* * * * *
Florence had been purposely leaving her sister and nephew alone with the book. She didn't want to be a distraction and didn't want to be distracted from her vigil. Danger would eventually come and her magic was a good way to watch for it from a distance.
Every two months or so, the hedge witch would cast her divination spell, looking for the source of the coming evil that promised to haunt her favorite relatives. It still eluded her but she wouldn't give up. She wanted to find out more about it so she could come up with some way to fight it.
A sudden violent electrical storm appeared last night, reminding her of her former book. She knew the book could manipulate the weather and wondered if trouble was brewing. She was about to try the spell again when her sister contacted her that morning. Gail said it was urgent but wouldn't say any more until Florence came over to the house. It wouldn't have helped to cast the divination spell even if there was time. Nothing could've prepared her for the coming of the next storm.
Gail and Terry weren't speaking to each other by the time Florence arrived. There was nothing more they could say. They both sat apart with their lips pinched shut and their arms folded, glaring at each other. It didn't stop them from shouting their case to Florence though. They proved the magical sex change and then started the debate.
"You've got to talk to that book about this!" Gail insisted.
"No! There's nothing wrong! I want to be a girl! I really do! Terry cried.
Florence threw up her hands. "Enough! That's enough from both of you. I'll go talk to the book. It's far more sensible than either of you seem to be right now."
Trickster had spent his time well. He'd been well fed so he was able to focus all of his attention on figuring out how to use the magic of the book. He'd pretty much mastered writing on the pages, making physical changes to Terry, reading minds and, after last night's practice, controlling the weather.
An intriguing possibility occurred to him after the storm experiment. The reaction to the severe electrical activity was strong enough that he could read the fearful thoughts of several of the nearest neighbors. If he could figure out someone's greatest fear and then generate a hallucination to generate that same fear, he could create a feedback loop that might create a feast of emotions. It was too delicious a recipe to pass up. All he needed was a test subject. He couldn't use Terry or his mother. He depended on them for his long-term survival. He needed someone who was expendable.
Florence walked into the bedroom and right into Trickster's hands. She'd be perfect for his latest experiment. He knew he could create illusions - both with his own power and most likely with the book's - so it was just a matter of finding one of her fears. He knew all of mankind's biggest fears so all he had to do was run through them until he got a reaction.
"Okay book," growled the irate aunt as she sat down on Terry's bed and opened the cover of the book. "What's been going on here?"
"What do you mean?" Trickster wrote. He played innocent, purposely trying to provoke the woman into having strong emotions to make it easier to probe her mind.
"How could you change Terry like that? My sister is a wreck!" Florence was taking the bait.
"I've had some trouble with an evil being. I was almost completely drained before imprisoning it and my magic got a bit wonky. That's the short story anyway."
"You expect me to buy that? I know how you work. I know what you're capable of. We were together for 20 years after all. You've never had a problem like this before."
This was fun for the evil being. It would be a challenge to fool this woman. She knew too much about the book. He couldn't use the excuse that he needed to recharge. She'd know it was a lie.
"I've never met an evil being before," he correctly guessed. "He really scared me! Honest! He threatened to turn Gail into a crippled old woman! It was horrible!"
"Well...," Florence still wasn't satisfied but she had to admit this was a new situation. "That does sound pretty bad, but why haven't you changed Terry back? He hasn't been a girl for a full menstrual cycle, has he?"
Trickster swore to himself as he read the woman's mind. He combined two fears - old age and being crippled but there wasn't the least taste of fear. He'd have to try again.
"Yes, he's been a girl for a month. I think there was a problem with the change though. I'm afraid to try changing him back. He's been sick a lot with rashes and blisters and all sorts of terrible symptoms. I thought it might be a magic induced illness so I've been waiting for him to get better."
Florence paled at the thought of being in a bedroom full of germs and Trickster knew he'd found what he needed. He lost no time in filling her mind with imaginary dizziness and nausea, making her think she was getting sick.
"Oh dear. I don't feel so well... poor Terry. That sounds awful."
The evil being didn't stop there, he added some dull body aches and then topped it off with a fast spreading rash and dozens of small blisters. He was giddy from the fear he was causing. It was exquisite. His only mistake was going too far, too fast.
Florence looked down at herself in horror. She wore a white short-sleeve blouse and saw an army of welts and blisters run down her arms. The blisters were festering and leaving pus stains on her beautiful blouse. She had Terry's disease!
A loud scream suddenly rang out from upstairs, followed by an eerie silence.
"Flo!" Gail cried.
Mother and son ran up to the bedroom to find Florence unconscious on the floor. They checked for a pulse and found she was still alive, but they couldn't revive her. They quickly called an ambulance.
The paramedics arrived on the scene in short order. They were puzzled though. There didn't seem to be anything physically wrong. Heart rate, respiration and blood pressure were all a little elevated but not life threatening. It was up to the doctors at the hospital to figure out this case.
Terry and Gail followed the ambulance to the hospital. Terry wanted to bring Callie in case there was some way she could help but that idea was squashed. Gail didn't say anything but she had a bad feeling about that book. She didn't trust it so it wasn't coming. Terry pouted but respected his mother's authority.
Trickster wished he could've read minds centuries ago. It would've made it so much easier to provoke his favorite emotion. He was drunk from the glut of fear he'd just consumed. After several hours it would wear off and then he'd swear at himself for going too far. He pushed too hard and put his victim in a coma. He'd have to control himself better next time but for now he was content.
* * * * *
Florence's vital signs looked okay except for her EEG. Her brain waves were very erratic because she was locked inside her own mind, fighting her extreme fear of disease.
She'd developed her fear when she worked as a volunteer at a hospital more than 15 years ago. She'd just started turning her life around with the help of her old book. The book suggested volunteer work to help people so she tried the local hospital. She didn't think about all the diseases she might catch and was very careless about hygiene. She ended up catching one thing after another. It started with the flu. Then she got several infections and eventually came down with mononucleosis, leaving her debilitated for weeks. The doctors she helped wouldn't let her volunteer any more after that. They thought her immune system was too weak to be in a hospital. The book helped her overcome all of her illnesses but her experience left her thinking her immune system was in fact weak. She'd been deathly afraid of catching something ever since.
Gail and Terry spent several hours at the hospital. When they finally accepted the doctor's opinion that Florence wouldn't awaken anytime soon, they went home for dinner.
Both mother and son sat and ate silently at the dinner table. Terry wondered what was going to happen to him now that his secret gender change was out. Gail just thought about how to deal with the book.
The book was out of control. That much was obvious. The only problem was what to do about it. Gail stared into space and eventually her eyes came to rest on the candles she lit for dinner. She lit them as a reminder of her sister who loved working with candle magic. This time the candles worked their magic for Gail. They inspired a possible solution to the problem of the book.
The scheming woman pushed the remainder of her meal aside. She'd had enough for now. There was no time to waste. The sooner she started, the sooner she'd have her son back.
After building a roaring bonfire in the back garden, Gail went to get the book. She knew it had a name. She named it herself. Now it was just a book. A name would humanize it too much and make it harder to do what she had to do next.
Trickster was a little disoriented when he was lifted off Terry's bed. He hadn't left the foot of the bed for weeks. Now he was floating through the house. It took him awhile to focus on the cause. It was the girlie boy's mother. She was taking him somewhere.
When they left the house and approached a large fire, the evil being was a little concerned. His intuition told him there'd be trouble soon. Fire and books didn't mix. He decided that perhaps he needed a little offense of his own so he conjured up a small electrical storm overhead.
By now, it was just after sunset. The darkening sky along with the thunder and lightning just reinforced Gail's dark mood. She stopped on the edge of the grass, a short distance from the fire, and opened the front cover of the book to prepare for battle. Before she could start though, a question appeared on the front page.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm taking care of my family," Gail said with barely contained rage. "Change my son back. Now."
"I can't. Didn't Terry tell you?"
"Terry doesn't know you like I do," she bluffed.
"Oh? I don't know what you mean."
"I think you do. I don't believe you any more. I don't trust you. Now change my son back before someone gets hurt."
That was enough for Trickster. He didn't like being threatened. It was time to show this woman who was boss. He sent a lightning bolt that hit the large TV antenna on the next door neighbor's roof. The thunder was deafening.
Gail flinched but she wasn't backing down. She'd die protecting her son if she had to. It was a mother's duty. She held the heavy book on her stronger right arm and reached across with her left hand to grip the front page. With a loud tearing sound, she ripped it out and threw it in the fire.
"Change my son back," she growled.
Terry had ignored his mother when she got up from the table. He continued picking at his food, lost in thought. When Gail came back inside, he was still at the table. He could hear her upstairs and then she came back down again to go back outside. It took several minutes and a loud clap of thunder before it registered that she was carrying Callie.
The frantic boy jumped up and kicked his chair over in his rush to get to the back yard. Once there, he stood in shock on the concrete patio as he saw and heard what his mother was doing. After she threw the first page in the fire, he whimpered. After the second page, he groaned. Finally, after the third page became ashes, he found his voice.
"Mother! Stop! What are you doing?!"
Gail's hunch had been very strong, and now she noted with grim satisfaction that the book gave itself away as she ripped out the pages. The writing on the pages made it easier to throw them away. Each one was covered with profanity. The book was calling her every name from bitch to witch.
"This is for you Flo!" screamed Gail as she ripped out three pages at once. Her heart raced and her blood boiled. She never felt more alive.
Lightning struck very close several times with no effect and Trickster realized he needed a new plan. He considered zapping the mad woman but he couldn't do that without possibly destroying himself. He only had a limited number of pages so he had to think quickly. He could regenerate them but it would take time - time he didn't have. He was fighting for his life.
Trickster could hear Terry continuing to scream at his mother. The boy stayed well back - he was intimidated by the large fire and lightning - but he was still in range of the book's magic. That gave the dark one an idea. The boy's voice inspired a last desperate gambit and the first thing Trickster did was change Terry's voice to sound unmistakably feminine. That made the crazy mother pause.
Gail turned and stared when she heard her son's voice crack and rise to a soprano. It didn't end her resolve however. She turned back to the book with renewed determination, screaming incoherently.
When Terry cried out that he had boobs, tears streamed down Gail's face, but she couldn't stop now. This had gone beyond the point of no return. In the end, she'd have her son back or the book would be destroyed. Either option was preferable to letting the book continue to ruin her family's lives.
With the lightning and the shouting, the neighbors were beside themselves with fright. They huddled together on the couch - or in some cases under the bed - while the battle raged outside. It couldn't last much longer at the rate it was going.
The book was down to its last three pages and Terry was all girl. Losing the pages, changing Terry and controlling the weather all took its toll so there was almost no magical energy left. Trickster couldn't change Terry back to a boy now if he wanted, but he had to stall. He figured he could always find some way out of this mess later on. All he had to do was survive this night.
"Okay! You win!" wrote the book in huge letters. "I'll change your son back to a boy but you have to let me rest! I'm drained!"
Gail almost missed the book's surrender. She had the next page half ripped before she caught herself. It took all of her willpower but she let go of the page and considered what she read.
"How long will it take you to rest?" she demanded more than asked.
"Not long. I can start making small changes in an hour or two - longer to change him all at once."
Gail was about to accept the offer but fate had different plans. The electrical storm that Trickster had created was still overhead. The dark being left it alone after he changed his plan of attack and it hadn't dissipated. It had built up too much energy. There was one more small lightning bolt left that needed discharging.
The triumphant mother held her ground in front of the fire when she felt the fine hairs on her arms and the back of her neck stand on end. She was being charged. Before she could react, the bolt hit her and the book went flying - into the fire. A large green fireball erupted from the bon fire and briefly lit up the entire neighborhood as bright as day. That was the end of the book - and the end of Trickster.
Terry ran to his - make that her - mother, crying. She struggled to pull the unconscious woman back from the fire. Then she checked for signs of life. Gail's heart was beating and her breathing was regular. Her mother was still alive.
Chapter 8: Family
The metal buttons and zipper on Gail's clothes were melted by the lightning strike, but most of the energy flowed over her skin and into the book, leaving her unharmed. She regained consciousness after only a few minutes, and immediately started crying and hugging her new daughter.
In a strange twist of fate, the energy of the lightning bolt actually rejuvenated the book. Trickster had a very short span of time to consider doing something with that energy before he was destroyed. He could've changed Terry back as a gesture of goodwill. It was a last chance that might have saved his soul even though it would've left Terry very unhappy. It was definitely not a win-win situation. Too bad for him - and lucky for Terry - that he stayed stubbornly true to his nature and did nothing before seeing his miserable life flash before his eyes.
Terry would remain a teenage girl and eventually grow into the woman she yearned to be. The road ahead would be difficult for her. It wouldn't be easy to change records and identification but it could be done. It helped that she still had a very strong resemblance to her former male self. Changing gender was becoming more and more commonplace in the world. She hadn't been going to her new school for very long so she'd be able to continue going there. Her friend Shelly would help her get through it all.
* * * * *
The next day, Terry had some explaining to do to Shelly, starting with her new look. It wasn't actually new of course. She'd had enough fashion shows in the past that Shelly would easily recognize her face and voice. When Trickster changed her into a girl, he did it the same way Callie did and only tweaked the male Y chromosome into a female X chromosome. The only thing new was that the sex change was permanent.
She called her friend over to her house for their usual Saturday get together and waited downstairs. Shelly soon arrived and Terry greeted her at the door in full view of Gail who also said hello. They raced up to Terry's bedroom so the girl talk could begin.
"So your mother knows you're a girl now," Shelly said with a knowing smile.
Terry just nodded yes.
"Good," Shelly sighed. "I'm glad that's out of the way. We have too many secrets as it is."
Terry agreed and then filled her friend in on what happened to Callie. Shelly's eyes went wide when she heard about the book's destruction. That meant the two of them wouldn't be swapping back and Terry would be staying a girl. Nothing was said about Florence. She didn't want to upset her friend any more than she had to but Shelly took the news even better than Terry thought.
"I have to confess something," Shelly blushed. "I really don't mind being you... being a girl. No... that's not right. I love being a girl!"
"I know, but it's so nice to hear you finally admit it."
"Really? Why didn't you say something?"
"Oh, right. All hail Shelly, Queen of Denial!" Terry laughed.
Shelly couldn't help but see her point. She had been in denial, but she was free to be a young woman now. She was happy.
They both admitted to looking forward to their new lives and then talk turned to their families. Shelly loved her family, though her mother still talked about having her little girl escape from the jaws of obesity. It was so embarrassing. Her father wasn't very expressive but it was obvious enough for her that she was loved by both of her parents.
Terry was a little concerned about her mother, who'd had a rough couple of days and hadn't seemed all that happy for the past several months. Her intuition told her that Gail must be lonely. The two girlfriends made it their mission to help Gail find a friend or two, hopefully one of which would be tall, dark and handsome.
What really weighed heavily on Terry's mind was her mother's revelation about the battle with the book. It couldn't have been Callie doing all that. Callie could never be evil. The only possibility was that the evil being that attacked her had somehow taken over the book.
Gail had also confessed her suspicion that the book had something to do with Florence's sudden coma, though there was no proof. Terry relayed all of her thoughts and concerns to her understanding friend who agreed with it all. There was something missing though. If the dark one was in the book, where was Callie? Intuition struck again and the two teens shouted the same five words simultaneously.
"She's in the tiger!"
Callie had almost given up all hope of ever escaping the prison she herself had created. She cried a little everyday and tried listening for thoughts and dreams at night. The rest of her time was simply spent fearing what Trickster would do or wallowing in self-pity.
She'd become a personality separate from the book and was more than strong enough to survive on her own, but it was difficult being so isolated. She began to talk to herself to make up for the dull silence.
"So Callie. What about today? Will someone fish you out of the back of this closet?"
"I don't know," she answered herself. "Maybe. Let's wait and see." Someday she'd be taken out. She had to be, and that gave her the little hope she needed to keep going.
Today Callie wondered what happened to the book. She used to feel its presence, as well as its new, dark host. It had been on the bed for weeks but there was nothing now. If, by some stroke of luck, Trickster was destroyed, she'd thought she might be freed and end up back in the book. That actually would've happened if the book wasn't also destroyed. She had nowhere else to go now. She was stuck in the tiger.
After her daily game of asking if today was the day she'd be found, a hand actually reached in and grabbed her. She was moving! Terry plucked her from the darkness and placed her on her feet. She stood on the bed and surveyed the area with her myopic senses.
It had been so long - so very long - and she wanted to drink it all in. Every new sight brought more life to her. She looked around and finally focused on two girls. Two of them! That was a surprise. Her limited senses made it difficult to tell but it could only be Terry and Shelly. That made her very happy. She used what little magic she had to force the tiger's mouth into a smile.
The two girls kneeled in front of the bed and had stared intently at the tiger, hoping for a sign that Callie was within it. They weren't disappointed.
"Did you see that?!" Terry squealed. "She was frowning and now she's smiling!"
"I saw it! I saw it!" Shelly answered. "She must know it's us. She's smiling at us!"
For the rest of the day, they experimented, trying to communicate with Callie. They placed a sheet of paper by her to see if something would be written on it. It wasn't magic paper so there wasn't any chance of anything being written on it. Shelly left the room at one point, hoping Callie could talk alone with Terry but it didn't work. They had seen her change the expression on the tiger's face. They also swore they saw a leg move a little once. That was it. Things would never be the same for all three of them.
* * * * *
Later that night, Terry slept with the tiger, thinking there might still be a chance of talking to Callie through lucid dreams. It was a nice try and would've worked if Terry's mind and body were of the original form. As it was, Callie had nothing familiar to reach out to. They both tried so hard but there was no connection.
Terry tried in vain to have a lucid dream with Callie for the whole week. She was desperate to get back in touch, hoping to ask for help with Florence. The sickly aunt was still in a coma with no signs of recovery. At the end of the week, there was still no contact - not even a normal dream. She was very disappointed.
With nothing to show for her efforts, Terry gave up on Callie. She ended up giving the tiger to Shelly. Maybe her friend would have more luck.
* * * * *
Shelly didn't have her original body but she still had the mind that Callie recognized. The magic bond of the book that linked to Terry's original body also had a subtle link to his subconscious. That meant Shelly's subconscious was reachable. Shelly had some normal dreams involving a little pink tiger with blue stripes that followed her around like a lost puppy. There wasn't really any communication but it inspired an idea.
After discussing her idea with Terry, the two of them took Callie to the hospital to visit Florence. They hoped the former book might have better luck than the doctors have had so far.
Terry placed the tiger on the pillow by her Aunt's head. The rest was up to Callie.
Callie felt more movement and was pleased to sense a change of scenery on the way to the hospital. She had no idea what it was all about but she was excited nonetheless. It was something different. Participating in Shelly's dreams was interesting but ultimately not very satisfying since she couldn't communicate.
A short time later, she was placed on a stiff foam pillow next to a woman who seemed very familiar. It took a few minutes to recognize her previous owner. As soon as she realized it, she reached out with all she had and connected easily for some mental communication.
There was no response so she tried again. It should work.
"Hello? Florence? Are you there?"
The frustrated magic being moved herself forward, deeper into Florence's mind. There wasn't much activity. Only the basic functions needed to keep the body alive were going. This didn't look good so she delved into the subconscious. There was the answer.
An image of Florence was hanging by her arms from a large leafless oak tree. Both wrists were chained to a thick horizontal branch about 10 feet above the ground. She was naked and covered with blisters and welts. Her eyes were tightly shut and she was quietly whimpering. It was horrible!
Callie slowly approached her old friend. She spoke softly but firmly. She was ready to help.
"Please open your eyes Florence. Please look at me."
The woman whimpered a little more loudly but didn't open her eyes.
Callie continued to press. She had to reach her very soon. If Florence stayed this way much longer, she may never recover. She'd already developed bed sores that reinforced the rash in her imagination, giving her mental illness a stronger hold over her.
After 30 minutes, she hadn't gotten more than a whimper out of her former owner and friend. She stopped a moment to ponder the situation. It seemed likely that Trickster had something to do with this. If so then fear might keep the suffering woman from responding to her. Florence might be mistaking her for Trickster.
Callie decided to be bold then and do a little roleplaying. She changed her voice to a deep reverberating baritone and addressed her friend as someone who couldn't be ignored.
"Florence! It's time to go! I've come to claim you! You will suffer no more from your mortality!"
The woman stopped whimpering and gulped. Could it be? There was only one way she thought she'd escape her torture. There was only one thing that cured all of life's ills.
"Come with me! Leave your body behind and follow me to the world beyond the veil! Fear not dear woman! It is too late to fear death! Death is your salvation!"
There it was. She was dead. With great sadness yet great relief, she slipped through her chains and dropped to the ground in a heap. She felt hands helping her up and opened her eyes to see a young girl with short, spiky blonde hair.
The girl wore a pink, short-sleeve top and blue jeans. Her nose was tiny and her blue eyes sparkled with humor in contrast to her slightly sad smile. She certainly didn't look like the personification of Death.
"Death? Is that you? Am I really dead?"
At first, Callie pouted. There was no way her appearance should be mistaken for Death. The pout soon evaporated into a smile though as she looked at her puzzled friend. Then she started laughing. She couldn't help it. It was so absurd.
Florence didn't get it. Why would Death laugh at her? Was life really just some cosmic joke? Could she ever hope to understand the punch line?
"Well? Are we going now?" the bemused woman said after the girl made no move to lead her anywhere.
"No Florence. We aren't going anywhere. I believe you've had a bit of a problem with a psychic vampire and I'm here to help you recover. Don't you know who I am?"
"I'm sorry. I have no idea." She wasn't about to confess that she thought the girl was Death.
Callie sighed and finally explained everything, causing Florence to gasp with wonder. The book had saved her former owner yet again. It took a good long time to finish the story that ended with a long, awkward pause.
Florence recovered in less than an hour on the day of Callie's visit. She opened her eyes to see two very relieved girls she'd never seen before, though both of them looked somewhat familiar. It was nearly as strange as seeing her book as a young blonde teenager.
Just before she returned to the land of the living, the recovered woman had been told what to expect about the girls - including the body swap. It was a bit hard to handle. She'd also been asked to keep quiet about what she knew and about how Callie had helped her. That would be even more difficult.
Even though Callie could communicate rather well with Florence, she wanted to stay with her true owner - Terry who was now Shelly - and she didn't want to cause any guilt about it. She felt more comfortable with Shelly and thought the girl still needed her. She'd continue trying to make contact in Dreamland from her perch on Shelly's pillow.
So now Florence's two visitors were more than pleased to fill her in. The older gal was disappointed when they didn't admit to their swap but it was a relief to hear some things about the evil being that Callie didn't know for sure. Thanks to Gail, he was gone, along with the book. It was a bittersweet moment.
After the informative reunion, Terry immediately called her mother with the good news.
"Aunt Florence is awake! She's gonna be okay now!" she chattered excitedly into the phone.
Terry didn't mention Callie's part in this since she wasn't sure exactly what that part was. Florence admitted to feeling a soothing presence that helped her return, but was very vague about the whole process. Knowing that the former book played some part in the recovery was enough for Terry.
* * * * *
Florence was able to leave the hospital two days later. The perplexed doctors diagnosed her with spontaneous remission but they didn't say what she'd recovered from. They had no idea.
She took great pleasure getting acquainted with her new niece. She took Terry shopping all over the state and even tried getting her interested in witchcraft. Terry enjoyed the shopping but declined the magic. The girl had enough magic for one lifetime. That disappointed the hedge witch but she understood and didn't let it dampen her mood.
Florence eventually realized that her sister still had no idea the girls had swapped bodies. It made sense. Callie told her they were hiding it and Terry was so shy as a boy and said so little, Gail couldn't tell. Now that Terry was a girl and had Shelly as her best friend, the two of them were inseparable and talked all the time, but the change in personality could be attributed solely to the gender switch. That left her in an awkward position. She considered telling Gail but after hearing about her ordeal and seeing how it still affected her, she decided her sister had enough to deal with. Some things were better left alone. Maybe someday someone would confess something.
Shelly let Terry and her aunt bond but Florence soon included both girls in the shopping excursions. The odd girl out was pleased to be welcomed along. She was also invited over to Terry's for dinner quite often. After a few months, Terry talked her mother into letting Shelly call her mom number 2, making Shelly feel like she was almost part of her old family again.
Faithful Callie remained on her best friend's pillow. The former book was able to appear in Shelly's dreams as a stuffed toy tiger. That was enough for now. She was patient. She could wait for her friend to develop the ability to have lucid dreams. Maybe then they could spend more quality time together. There was always hope.
Shelly longed to make contact with her old friend. She was happy about Florence's recovery, knowing Callie had something to do it, but it wasn't enough for her. She'd spend the rest of her life if necessary trying to communicate with her best friend. She had a good friend in Terry, loving parents, and an extended family, but she still felt oddly alone. It felt like a part of her life was missing.
* * * * *
Three years later, life for Shelly was a dream come true in spite of Callie's silence. She was rapidly developing into a lovely young woman, and loved all the experiences of womanhood save for one. Dating was problematic. She tried dating boys - more for her parents than herself - but she was only sexually attracted to girls. She'd be content to wait until college to experiment. Then they're be no stopping her.
The mission to help make Gail into a social being wasn't forgotten. The two teens dragged Gail around to restaurants, fairs, festivals and every other event they could think of. Along the way, the reserved mother slowly relaxed and learned to participate in the games of life. When Gail started dating someone - her first date in over 15 years! - the girls declared mission accomplished.
Terry tried to be a good role model for her mother when it came to the opposite sex. Flirting came easy for her since she was gorgeous. The boys flocked to her like moths to a flame. She was always nice and friendly, and she was grateful for the attention. Her personality and looks made her extremely popular with the boys.
Florence now recognized the more mature Shelly as the teen from her divination spell so long ago. That explained why Shelly looked vaguely familiar when she first recovered from her psychic attack, and the body swap explained why Shelly showed up in the spell for Terry. The only thing that didn't make sense was why three years had to pass before her former nephew could be truly happy. Callie had explained that Terry wanted to be a girl and became Shelly to realize her dream. So why hasn't she been happy? The hedge witch decided to have a private talk with Shelly about it.
"This is going to sound strange," began Florence. "Years ago I cast a divination spell to see a time when Terry would be truly happy but I saw a vision of you as you are now. I'm still puzzling over it."
"That's very interesting," Shelly said with a nervous laugh. She knew where the conversation was going and wasn't sure she could handle it.
"There were only two options. The first was that you two were to become strongly connected - as in lifemates. Terry would be happy because you'd make her happy. That doesn't make sense because you two are both dating boys."
Shelly blushed at that and admitted to her former aunt that she was a lesbian. Florence raised an eyebrow but relaxed when Shelly told her that Terry was only into boys.
"Okay then," the woman continued. "Forget option one. That only leaves option two, but it's pretty hard to believe despite amazing past events." She was toying with Shelly at this point. She knew option two was the truth.
Shelly gulped. "So what's option two then?"
"Unless my niece is a very good actress, she's extremely happy, so the only other explanation for you showing up in my spell is that you're really Terry."
"I know it sounds crazy but nothing else makes sense."
This was it. She had to tell her aunt who she really was. After a long, deep breath, the words rapidly spilled out.
"Oh Florence. I am Terry... or was. Shelly and I swapped bodies so I could lose weight for her. It was a great plan but it all went wrong and now we're stuck. I've wanted to tell you for so long!"
Shelly stood and cried with relief. It felt so good to finally tell someone.
Florence smiled and hugged her true niece. Confession really was good for the soul.
Shelly asked to still keep the secret from Gail. She explained that her former mother had a hard enough time with Terry's sex change. She worried that the body swap would be too much for her to bear. Florence agreed.
Over the next few weeks, Shelly and Florence became quite close, and the hedge witch found Shelly to be a willing student of the arcane arts. The teen hoped to use magic to develop lucid dreams.
It slowly became apparent that Shelly was now truly happy. Florence could see the change in the girl. Admitting she was a lesbian, confessing she was Terry and pursuing magic brought joy to Shelly, and her personal quest to renew contact with Callie gave her purpose. Life was good.
* * * * *
Shelly went on to college with Terry where both of them made several life long friends. They got good grades and made successful careers in the Puget Sound area. Terry's life took a different direction than Shelly's though. She found husband material and married him. Terry couldn't be happier.
The two young women were as close as sisters and considered themselves to be sisters. It worried Terry a little to see that Shelly was still alone but at least her 'sister' seemed happy. Shelly went through several partners over the years. Perhaps she'd find the right woman someday.
Being a bridesmaid in Terry's wedding was a high point in Shelly's life. Another high point was several months ago when Terry announced there'd be an addition to the family. Shelly was going to be an 'aunt'!
"Wow! Look at you!" Shelly said when she met Terry for lunch at a small corner cafe. "You really are glowing!"
Terry was six months pregnant. She had a little trouble getting around but she was still working. She'd work until she got to the waddling stage. Then she'd take maternity leave. In the meantime, the two 'sisters' would both continue to take occasional lunch breaks from work and bond.
The didn't have to wait to be seated inside the cafe. They slipped into a small booth with comfortably padded seats and just as easily slipped into conversation.
"I'm so happy," Terry said and then started crying. The hormones were merciless but she was too happy to care.
"I can't wait to be an aunt," Shelly said with watery eyes.
"You could still have your own ya know," Terry teased.
"Yeah, but wouldn't that involve a man? Ewwww! Ick!" Shelly countered. Then the two of them laughed.
* * * * *
Before they met, life for both Terry and Shelly started out dull. It got a bit crazy and scary for awhile. Then it got much better. Now it was great. It's amazing what a little magic in your life can do for you.
*** Now ***
That's my story. I was a boy named Terry who became a girl named Shelly. I somehow survived my crazy teen years and ended up a happy old woman. It's been a good life overall.
So now I'm hoping to find Callie a nice home before I pass on. I don't want her slowly torn apart by a toddler. She deserves something better.
Maybe someday she'll be able to communicate again somehow - maybe even with me before I die. I'm still trying to contact her through lucid dreams. I haven't had any since before I became a young woman. If Callie can communicate through lucid dreams, perhaps she can continue doing what she loves to do - helping people who need it.
There's still some magic left from that book. Callie is still 'alive' in the stuffed animal. I know she is. She's able to change expressions on her face in response to some of my conversations with her. She even changes poses slightly now and then. A voiceless but expressive face is a primitive form of communication. It's not satisfying but it's all we have. I'm also fairly sure that she's able to interact with my subconscious. I'm able to have dreams about her almost every night. I always find her as a small pink and blue tiger somewhere in my dream. She never says a word but she's always smiling at me.
*** The End ***
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