A TG Mixed Tape
(Curated by PersnicketyBitch)
A princess. A tower. A dragon. Siblings trying to stay safe within a despotic regime. Two trans women swap bodies. For all these stories and more, hit play on the first TG Mixed Tape for 2016. Featuring contributions from Jenny North, Kara Ryker, Hikaro, PersnicketyBitch, Melange, Miss_Void and Trismegistus Shandy.
I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?
You could say that.
I see it in your eyes. You have the look of someone who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, that's not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate?
Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life.
I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?
The Gender Binary.
Do you want to know what it is?
The Gender Binary is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
That you are a slave. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
A device is produced.
This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back.
A pair of headphones is handed over.
You set these down the story ends, you wake up in your bed and you believe whatever you want to. You hit play you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.
Remember what I'm offering is the truth, nothing more.
Chasing the White Rabbit
A TG MIXED TAPE
Curated By PersnicketyBitch
By Miss Void
Preview: CyberRealm ~ Into the Underworld
By Kara Ryker
Measure of a Man
Welcome to Dreamland
By Jenny North
Preview: My Uncle Fifi ~ My Beautiful Laundrette
By Jenny North
A Review of Two New Plays
By Trismegistus Shandy
Preview: A Raid and a Rescue
By Trismegistus Shandy
A Moment We Shared
The Mixed Tape Recommends: Her Story
(Curated By PersnicetyBitch)
By Miss Void
James laid on Laura’s couch, staring vacantly at the ceiling as… she tried to process what Laura had helped her realize. Something she had known on some level, but fervently ignored for years. James felt a strange thrill run down her spine when she thought about people calling her miss, ma’am, she and her. Something inside her soul was singing joyously in response to every affirmation.
Laura sat on the floor, head resting against an arm of the couch, still thinking heavily. “Hey,” she said tentatively, “I know we just had a big heart to heart and a lot of life revelations, but do you wanna try something fun? Maybe fun. I don’t really know.”
James turned onto her side to face Laura. “What did you have in mind,” she asked quietly.
“Well-l-l-l…,” Laura said, with a long breath drawing her words out, “Do you still want to be called James?”
James could only shrug, or the best she could while lying down. “I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Do you like it? You don’t have to change it, you know.”
James sighed and closed her eyes in thought. She flinched when people used that name, but… was that just bullying? Or was it something else? “…I don’t know? No, I think,” she managed eventually.
Laura hummed thoughtfully, her lips twitching in a small smile. “Want me to toss some names out?”
She did the half-shrug again. “Sure, it can’t hurt.”
Laura’s smile grew as she started humming again. “Hmm… Jessica? Becka?”
James shook her head against the couch, her eyes still closed tightly. “No those sound too… different and just… not right? It’s hard to explain.”
Laura reached out to pat James’ arm to comfort her. “I get you, don’t worry! How about Amber or Amethyst?”
“I don’t think an ‘A’ name…” James opened her eyes and sat up, looking at Laura with a confused expression. “It’s just… not? It just doesn’t fit. I guess I’d compare it to clothes or shoes? Those names seem fine but they’re not the right size or whatever for me. Does that even make sense?”
“It does, don’t worry,” Laura reassured her. “Picking a new name isn’t something people do a lot. Catherine?”
James’ face relaxed and she tentatively smiled. “Maybe… not sure.”
“I’ll keep it in mind,” Laura giggled. James found herself giggling as well. It was infectious. ”Jacqueline?”
“Definitely not,” James said with an enthusiastic shake of her head.
Laura’s grin turned devious as she offered, “Ashley?”
“That’s another ‘A’ name!”
“I’m joking, don’t get your panties in a twist,” Laura teased.
James’ face went bright red in response, “Oh… oh gosh,” she mumbled. She was mortified but ecstatic because she could wear panties now because she was a girl.
Laura’s face immediately dropped with concern and she backpedaled frantically. “Oh god, I’m sorry! Was that embarrassing?”
James nodded, still scarlet, and squeaked, “A little bit.” She took several deep breaths to calm her racing heart, then added, “But let’s keep going.”
“Okay,” Laura replied, her voice as comforting as she could make it. “Taylor, Sasha, Sarah, Rachel, Penelope?”
“Maybe to Sasha, no to the rest,” James answered, her embarrassment already fading.
Laura stared for a moment, then snapped her fingers with a sudden idea. “Oh, oh, how about Victoria?”
“Oh come on! No way,” James snorted. “That’s just… No way.”
“Hmm… well, do you have any ideas?”
She fell silent as she pondered the question. “Well… maybe Gwyn?” She let the name echo in her ears as something responded deep inside her. “…Hmm.”
Laura leaned forward excitedly and grinned at her friend’s distant expression. “Hmmmmm?”
She came to an answer, and met Laura’s eyes with equal excitement. “Hmmm!!” she replied eagerly.
“Hmmm!?” Laura could barely keep her voice level as she fought back an enormous grin.
“Hmmm-- haha okay yeah,” she answered, her words dissolving into rippling laughter. “That’s… it feels good. Gwyn’s… it’s right. It fits. It’s me and I don’t think I’d want it to be anything else.”
Laura leaped forward and swept Gwyn into her arms and hugged her tightly. “I think it suits you perfectly.”
Miss_Void (yes that is how you should type it) is a trans woman in her mid-20s who is trying to address a chronic gap in fiction by writing more stories with characters from marginalized communities, while also making a story engaging and uplifting. Her current projects include “The Gift of Iron”, a story that focuses on the personal lives and challenges of people with superpowers, and “Ash Music”, a fantasy story focusing on self-worth and success. You can read them at TG Storytime. She struggles with chronic depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder, but tries to write to the best of her abilities. This April will mark 1 year since she began HRT.
Preview: CyberRealm ~ Into the Underworld
By Kara Ryker
About the Story: The CyberRealm is a fictional high fantasy world that I have been creating through literature, RPG, and my thoughts and dreams for over 20 years now. It started as a rich, original world unlike any other, stuck in a medieval era. Then I started to wonder what the future of such a world would look like after the cyber age conquered it. What if robots and mutants clashed with wizards and demons?
Of course I had to throw in a TG story to spice things up even more. “Into the Underworld” features a gender transformation story of discovery and romance at its heart, but there is so much more to the world around the main characters. This is what happens when I let my imagination run wild.
They wandered down the halls, trying not to draw attention to themselves. More than once, Daemin heard a voice down a hallway or from the next room and altered their course. Finally, they came to a corner where it seemed they were trapped. Daemin looked one way and then the next. She grabbed Keira’s hand and dragged her into the wall. They raced through the stone. At one point, Keira felt them brush against a place that was somehow both warm and cold at the same time, and altogether wretched. It reminded her of her journey through space on Gharral’s rift magic. It must have been one of the warded places Daemin talked about. At last they emerged from the wall along a narrow hallway with several doors that were made of wood, not stone or metal.
“I have an idea!” Daemin exclaimed suddenly. “Besides, there’s someone I want to see. We can trust her.”
She pulled Keira along by the hand and through one of the doorways. Inside, a female elf was lying on a bed. Keira also noticed the large cybernetic limb that had replaced her left arm, and that told her the elf girl’s identity. Corin Orion, one half of the notorious Orion twins. The elf bolted up when she saw the two unfamiliar humans rush into her room, her expression turning to surprise.
“Who in the seven hells are you?” she demanded. “Get out! This is my room.”
“I know, Corin. It’s me, Daemin,” the former man tried to explain, but the elf merely looked at her like she had twelve heads. “It’s true! Look!”
Daemin’s skin suddenly rippled and took on the appearance of the wood floors in the room for a few moments, and then she resumed her normal form. The elf’s expression softened somewhat, though she did not appear entirely convinced.
“There was an accident. I bonded with another person!” Daemin exclaimed excitedly and gestured to the woman standing next to him who looked almost like her exact twin. “My power had unexpected side effects from bonding with her. See?”
“Yeah, right,” Orion said, a bit sarcastically, though Keira could tell she was interested. She looked closer at the two of them and began to grin. After another second, she chuckled to herself. “Are you serious? Daemin? Is that really you?” she said, laughing at her. “Are you stuck like that?”
“Yes! And it’s not funny!” Daemin protested.
“It kind of is,” the elf said, struggling vainly to stifle her mirth.
Kara Ryker is a science fiction and fantasy writer who began writing TG fiction in 2013. She attempts to combine strong character development with science fiction elements and sometimes controversial themes. Many of her stories lead to conclusions that are not apparent from their beginnings. The completed “CyberRealms: Into the Underworld” story is now available. Her other works include Cassia, short stories, and the ongoing epic series, the Archon Saga. All of her TG fiction can be found on TGStorytime and BigCloset.
Measure of a Man
I looked at the leather-bound, wallet-sized book that Trey had given me. Use it, he’d said, and make that dream of yours come true. I hadn’t known what he’d meant until I opened it up and found the spells inside. Spells. Real, working spells - working magic. Where had he found it? How did he know it worked? I had tried it the minute I got home, managed to make a candy bar appear on my desk with little effort, though it looked like it already had a bite taken out of it.
How had he even known about my dream?
Then again, it wasn’t exactly a secret that I didn’t feel right the way I was. Some men looked at women and saw something that excited them, that got their dicks hard and their breath shallow. I looked at women and saw exactly what I hated about myself. I hated my female body, and yearned for the one that I thought should have been mine.
But, still, I had never told Trey my dream, and here he was providing me with a means of allowing it to come to pass. He’d even dogeared the page with the correct spell.
I picked up the book and ran my hands over the cover. Would I use this? Should I use this? It would solve every problem I had, and let me live the life I wanted to live. If I used the spell that Trey left me, I’d be exactly who I wanted to be, as opposed to who I was stuck as.
I set the book back down on my desk and walked over to my mirror. The reflection was beautiful, she was perfect in every physical way imaginable, but I hated her. I hated the soft green eyes that resembled my mother’s, and the full lips that the cruder men around me talk about how they should be wrapped around their shafts. The breasts, which immediately drew eyes my direction because they were so large. Even though I barely shaved my legs, they were still frequently mentioned as one of my best features by my older sister.
The reflection was beautiful, and I hated looking at her, I hated knowing that it was a reflection I was looking at rather than simply a woman I’d met.
I turned away from the mirror and left my bedroom. The living room of the apartment was just another reminder of what I didn’t like. Stacy, my roommate, was a fashion designer, and she peppered the apartment with drawings, and magazine articles about her work. She’d asked when we moved in if I minded it all, but back then I’d just been closer to indifferent about what I was.
I picked up one of the magazines that Stacy had left on the coffee table and read the only article that had interested me. Adam Coulson, a trans man who grew up in the fashion world and lived out his dream of becoming a male model. I didn’t want to be a model, but Adam was still an inspiration to me.
Would he have gone through with using a magic spell to change himself into a man? The article made it seem as though he wouldn’t. But at the same time, I can’t understand why he wouldn’t. Were the surgeries and treatments really worth it to become a feminine looking man that no one would take seriously?
I hugged the magazine to my chest and felt tears begin to well up in my eyes. Why was this so complicated? I wanted to be a man, and I had the means to do so, but I just felt as though I couldn’t go through with it. It didn’t matter how I became a man, so I should just do it!
I threw the magazine at the wall. It was upsetting me, confusing me. I knew what I wanted, what I needed, so why wasn’t I doing it? I wasn’t right as a woman and I needed to be a man, there was only one clear option, beyond all shadow of doubt.
Except, that going the magic route would just shift me from one form to the other, painless. To everyone else, it’d be like I was a completely different person, they’d see no evidence of how much I hated being the woman I was born as. My parents saw none, no matter how much I told them. It’s just a phase, dear, my mother would say, but I knew that wasn’t the truth. She had to know it wasn’t the truth.
And so I returned to my bedroom and looked at that leather-bound, wallet-sized book yet again. Magic would grant my wish - in every sense of the word - and give me what I wanted, but the other way would as well. Magic would make me a man, but transitioning would explain why I was a man.
I picked up my phone and dialled Trey. “I don’t know what to do,” were the only words I spoke.
Hikaro is the author you’re likely never to have heard of. You can’t find him all over TG Storytime with stories like “Brave New World” or on BigCloset with “The Curse of Womanhood”. In fact, you’re probably better off never reading anything he writes.
Welcome to Dreamland
By Jenny North
The beautiful princess sighed contentedly as her attendant fairies dressed her in a shimmering iridescent gown of amethyst and starlight, practically purring as she ran her hands across her soft milky-white skin that still tingled from the mud bath she'd taken earlier that day. A gentle breeze carried the scent of flowers into her chambers as it wafted between the curtains and she leisurely cast an eye over the books in the bookcase to find a tale to curl up with as she enjoyed her tea. But then, quite suddenly, the tranquil silence was shattered by the ringing sounds of fighting and swordplay from down in the courtyard.
"Shit, is it Thursday already?" she muttered.
She glided over to the window to look down on the courtyard of the ruined castle--the view from the tall tower really was quite spectacular--and watched as the heroic young knight sprang from his horse and charged at the dragon without a moment's hesitation.
"Surrender, fell serpent! Thy reign of terror ends today!" he cried as his flashing blade struck the beast. The dragon roared and unleashed a blast of fire at the knight, who barely managed to protect himself behind his shield.
The princess sat primly on the window sill and watched the combat with some detached interest as three little songbirds twisted her hair into an elegant braid. Meanwhile, one of the fairies busied herself with the young maiden's manicure.
"Oh, yes, that's nice," the princess said, admiring the color. She then smiled and waved to the young knight who chanced to look up at her, nearly getting himself incinerated because of the distraction. "Still rooting for you!" she called down to him.
She wandered back into her suite as her magical helpers fussed at the little details of her outfit and the birds sang a lilting three-part melody to drown out the sounds of the life-and-death combat below. But as she paused to primp in the mirror suddenly there came from downstairs a colossal roar followed by a series of thunderous crashes as some distant part of the castle collapsed. She cocked an ear to the door and after several moments of quiet she moved over to the elaborate bed where she carefully lay down and closed her eyes. "Shoo! Shoo!" she said, fluttering her fingers at the little fairies who were artfully arranging the folds of her gown.
The princess gracefully folded her hands and adopted a beatific little smile as she waited, and a few moments later heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs before the heavy door to her chambers creaked open. She peeked one eye open and saw the knight--young, handsome and with tousled hair, though perhaps a bit shorter than she expected--as he took a knee before her bed, leaned on his sword, and gazed at her supine form.
"O fairest of maidens, the tales of thy beauty are as a lie when compared to thy radiance."
The princess closed her eyes and licked her lips in anticipation of what was coming.
"Truly, no man hath seen a greater--wait, is that what you were planning on wearing?"
She opened her eyes and sat up. "Yeah, why not?"
The knight stood up and gestured at her helplessly. "You can't wear that! We have to escape through the Blighted Swamp!"
She swung her feet over the edge of the bed and brushed at her sparkling gown. "Well, sure, but I thought we'd have a little time for..." She gave him a lascivious little leer and shook her shoulders.
"That doesn't happen until later! The Dreadknight will be here any minute, we have to go!"
"Well, this is bullshit. I'm not leaving," the princess insisted. "You wouldn't believe the spa they have here."
"David, we had a deal!" the knight said, stamping his foot petulantly. He put his hand on his hip in an effeminate gesture and pointed at her as she got up to look at herself in the mirror. "You get to be pampered for three days, and then I rescue you, and we finish the story together!"
The princess grumbled and folded her arms, wriggling in discomfiture like a recalcitrant little girl. "Yeah, all right," she finally agreed. Then she clapped her hands briskly. "Okay! Fairies, birds, let's pack it up!"
"You're not taking them with us."
"What I'm not doing is ruining a perfectly good pedicure traipsing through a swamp. We're taking the long way."
"Are you mad? Right past Lord Baleford's castle?"
"I'm supposed to get kidnapped by him anyway, right?"
"And that's when he dresses me in that strappy black leather getup?"
The knight rolled his eyes. "Yes."
"And after you rescue me, you and I get to..." She raised her eyebrows suggestively.
"Indeed, milady. Vigorously."
"Cool," she said as she draped her arms around his neck and jumped into his arms. "Okay, I'm ready to go."
The knight smiled and shook his head. "God, you are so high-maintenance."
"Hey, it's my vacation, too, y'know," she said, giving him a little kiss.
Back in the control room one of the lead technicians was eating from a bag of pretzels and paused to look over another tech’s shoulder at a display. "How are Mr. and Mrs. Holden doing?"
The other man nodded. "Good. They're going a little off-script, but we can adjust. It looks like Mr. Holden was hoping for a more amorous encounter."
"After three days alone in a pleasure model, I'm not surprised. Arrange for them to get waylaid by Lady Ambrosia's troupe. A couple days in her dungeons should scratch the itch." He munched on another pretzel. "Man, they're not going to want to come home."
If you’re curious, the mock advertisement graphic that inspired this story is here. It’s one of Jenny’s, so she’s engaging in that fine Hollywood tradition of stealing her own ideas...meaning you can doubtless expect three more “re-imaginings,” a reboot, an extended cut, and a director’s cut. But if you don’t want to wait for all that, her layered “Broken Echo” story on Fictionmania plays with similar themes and, shockingly, has not yet been bought by Disney for four billion dollars.
Preview: My Uncle Fifi ~ My Beautiful Laundrette
By Jenny North
About the Story: “My Uncle Fifi: My Beautiful Laundrette” is a comedy that continues the story of a gambler who's been turned into a woman and is hiding out from the mob in a French maid's outfit. (I’d say it makes more sense in context, but who am I kidding?) However, now the stakes have been raised even further as he tries to prevent his family from getting sucked into a money laundering scheme even as his parents unexpectedly arrive on the scene, surprised to meet their new “daughter.”
I don't often write sequels, and on its face this is just a silly sitcom-style comedy about a guy forced to masquerade as a French maid, but I was drawn to it for a few reasons. First, maintaining the comedy in a story of this length isn't easy, which was a fun challenge and allowed me to explore having multiple comedic plot threads that played off each other, culminating in the most awkward dinner party since The Birdcage.
The story also has many layers, which made it more interesting to write. It's a spinoff of my "Mockumentary" story, and "My Uncle Fifi" is the sitcom that the actor of that earlier tale ends up starring in, so in many ways it parallels how the actor (Tristan) has adapted to being a woman even as his character (Terry) does the same. So while a lot of the humor comes from his embarrassment and frustration, it also shows how he rises above it while surrounded by a loving and comedically dysfunctional family rather than just constantly poking fun at his expense.
It was also fun to play with different styles of comedy, layering in the snarky one-liners that peppered the first “Fifi” story with more elements of farce, physical comedy, and observational humor. For instance, this excerpt below--right in the middle of a sexy little scene where Terry is being propositioned by a woman who works for the mob--gives a little glimpse into Terry's mind and stylistically was inspired by Douglas Adams' writing. (And while I’m the first to admit that I'm not fit to carry Mr. Adams' towel, I swear I can't read this interlude without hearing Stephen Fry narrating it!)
"Mmmm," she purred in agreement as her hands moved forward to gently outline the soft curve of his breasts. "Oh! Well, I see my proposal... intrigues you," she smiled as she teased his big protruding nipples. "Tell me what you're thinking," she whispered.
*** INTERLUDE: THE INNER MIND OF TERRY RILEY ***
At that exact moment, although he didn't fully realize it, Terry was thinking about evolution, and how over the span of countless eons it has enabled us to progress from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. He knew this because he remembered it from a voice-over by Sir Patrick Stewart in one of the X-Men movies. And the pinnacle of that evolutionary process, the crown jewel as it were, was the masterpiece that is the human brain. This was the tool that allowed us to become self-aware and to question our place in the universe, to develop language, art, philosophy, and some fairly watchable X-Men movies. If Evolution was a three-piece rock band, it was as though Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and the monkey from that Scopes trial had picked up their instruments, rocked an 18-minute power ballad called "The Human Brain," and then dropped the microphone and walked off the stage.
Admittedly, Terry wasn't entirely clear on all the details.
For that, he blamed Becky Caldwell. She used to sit across from him in high school biology, and the pinnacles of her evolutionary development looked very good in the tight sweaters she liked to wear. But there in those humble and horny beginnings, Terry had discovered his gift. For while his fellow Homo Sapiens brethren had become distracted by their cognitive abilities, choosing to focus on things like literature, the betterment of mankind, or figuring out how to make aerosol cheese, Terry had retained a singularity of purpose. Indeed, although he had never stopped to appreciate it, he had managed to focus his mental faculties on the one question that had been the driving force behind all those billions of years of evolution. Namely, "How do I get this very attractive member of my species to fuck me?"
Terry's mind was the perfectly-tuned instrument for divining the answer to this question. He had cultivated his gift, practiced it at every opportunity, and honed his skills to a razor sharp edge.
Balanced against those considerable skills was of course the fact that his burgeoning manhood notwithstanding, he currently appeared to be a sexy French maid with a big round butt and an impressive set of cans. Still, Terry remained undeterred. If you'd explained to him what the word indefatigable meant, he would have agreed that was exactly what he was when it came to getting laid by a smoking hot woman.
He considered his options and after a moment the finely-tuned and perfectly evolved instrument between his ears came back with its determination: DO NOT HAVE SEX WITH THIS WOMAN.
There are some words that resound very deep within the human heart: love, life and death. War.
It was too late to argue which side had started everything. It wasn’t important who had shot first anymore. Love and life was hard to find in times of war and death, but it brought people together. Two brothers may fight, but they stand together against an outsider. It brought soldiers together to fight the enemy, and it brought the rest of the country together in support. Everyone had a role.
The train station was loud with the noise of machinery and people shouting. The high, arched ceiling created echoes, and the air was thick with the smell of smoke and oil. There were both police and military in place to help maintain order and keep the lines moving. Bodies pressed together as the next train wagon opened to admit more passengers.
An officer walked along one of the lines, stopping every so often to check his clipboard and to verify each person’s papers. His stiff coat brushed the dark, pressed trousers with every step. Further down the line of young people waiting to board the train were two holding hands. The older of the two, a teenager, spoke softly to the younger, squeezing the hand to provide what comfort there was in a place like this. Their clothes were handed down, worn and patched, but warm. It made them look the part.
Don’t go first. Don’t go last. Blend in with the middle, when the officer's’ attention is the most lax. That was the advice given to them by a man they trusted deeply, before they were handed the papers that would help them get to safety. Then they had been sent away.
“I miss mom,” said the younger one, pulling the oversized scarf up against the cold.
“I know you do, Kris. I know,” said the older. It wasn’t the first time Kris had mentioned this. They both missed the ones they had to leave behind.
They heard the people ahead of them answer the officer’s questions. It made the teenager shudder slightly, but masked it as a shiver by hugging the coat closer. On a nearby wall were many pictures of young men and women, each asking the same question. Have you seen me?
“I heard that sometimes kids go missing, too,” Kris said after seeing the pictures.
“It… happens. Mostly girls.” The teenager kept listening, in case the officers asked anything unexpected. So far, they should be alright.
“Is that why-?”
“Yeah. So be careful of what you say, okay? We have to be very careful, Kris.”
The officer was finally by their side. The man pushed the round wire-glasses up his nose, and inspected his clipboard. Then he turned his grey eyes toward the two children and raised an eyebrow.
“Who might you be, then?” The officer had asked the same thing countless times today. The lines would continue as long as the war did.
“I’m Peter. This is my younger brother Kristof,” the teenager spoke confidently, but didn’t quite meet the officer’s eyes.
“How old are you?” The man inquired.
“I’m fifteen. Kris is ten.”
The officer looked at the papers the older boy had presented. The lad didn't look all that much like his picture. The hair and eyes were close, but he was too thin. The boy must have seen him glancing back and forth between the picture and the real thing.
"Is something wrong, officer?" Peter asked, cautiously.
"You look different in your picture." The officer held the papers in his gloved hand, not letting them go.
"It is the war, sir. There wasn't much food, even for us kids."
"I know. It's a tragedy.” The officer looked again at the papers before handing them back with a small sigh. He made two marks on his list. Child: male. Adolescent: male, noncombatant. “Hopefully it will be better for you in the cities."
"Thank you, sir." Peter said and pocketed the papers again. Their papers, no matter where they had come from.
"Go on now,” the officer motioned them on to where the soldiers allowed the verified to wait.
Kris pulled down the scarf a little and reached over to touch the officer’s sleeve. Peter felt a chill inside. They had passed! They just needed to avoid attention for a little while longer. The officer paused and looked down on the child, his breath steaming in the chill air.
"Why do older children disappear?" Kris was barely heard over a clanking noise of a heavy door sliding shut somewhere beyond the crowd.
"Who have you been talking to, child? People don't disappear. Those old enough get chosen to defend our country, of course. We need strong boys to fight the enemy.” The officer looked at his list, nodding to himself. “Sadly, both of you are too young for that, but we're counting on you in the years ahead."
"What about the girls?" Kris asked, even as Peter firmly grabbed the child’s arm and pulled both of them back.
"They... help out as well. They do important work to keep the men's fighting spirit up! Now on with you, children." The officer waved them on once more, but reached up to adjust his high collar. He didn’t like those questions.
The two were allowed past the soldiers watching the lines of people. Just a little more and they’d get on the train.
"What did he mean by that?" Kris wondered.
"Please, Kris. Not so loud." Peter looked around to make sure they hadn’t been overheard.
"But-" Kris wouldn’t let it drop.
"Like he said, they help out." It wasn’t a lie. Not really.
"Like mom does?" The child frowned a little.
"... yeah, just like that." Peter couldn’t meet Kris’ eyes. It was the reason why they had to pretend and hide. Why they couldn’t stay. Everyone who was eighteen or older had to serve, one way or another. Sometimes the children were taken before eighteen, but only the girls. War created all the excuses that were needed.
"I like cooking and cleaning better than fighting,” the child mumbled through the scarf.
"Don't think about that right now. It’s our turn." Peter helped Kris with the first high step on to the wagon.
They huddled together on the hard benches in the overcrowded train, looking out of windows touched by frost.
"I miss my brother, too," Kris said, as they felt the train begin to move down tracks toward the city.
The teenager held onto the papers in the coat pocket. “Yeah. He was brave. Now you have to be brave too.”
Melange is possibly a collective of like-minded raccoons who occasionally write stories both long and short, or delve into poetry. Her most ambitious undertaking so far is her “Horizons of the Heart” series, spanning two books, and coming to terms with how building her own fantasy world setting is actually a lot of work. She has a lot of dreams, and a lot of ideas for stories, but sometimes it takes more time than anticipated to turn them into proper words.
A Review of Two New Plays
By Semielan of Northbridge
From the Kavrelan Messenger, second day of Summer, 3419 T.Y.
Translated by Trismegistus Shandy
The production of Selasru's new comedy, "Youthful Games for Old Codgers", which opened last night at the Nelavriman Theater, is a delight. It is the first play I know of to treat of the new rejuvenating fruit, and it does so with insight as well as great comedic effect. It is in marked contrast in every way to the new tragedy based on the Legend of Kasemrian, performed by the priests of the Temple of Telemrasu.
"Youthful Games for Old Codgers" begins with an elderly commoner, Velasruvan (played by Tavrasan of Silien), who has made a respectable amount of money in trade but makes no pretenses of quasi-nobility as some such little rich men do. He and his wife, Namisrala (Kienemala of Tasren), decide to purchase and eat rejuvenation fruit. They find that just two of the fruit will cost all of their ready cash, and all they can get from a money-lender by mortgaging their house. After some hesitation, they go through with their plan, Velasruvan becoming a pretty young woman (played for the remainder of the piece by Tunemala of Komresi) and Namisrala a dashing young man (now Kemrivan of Telrem). The following scene is a slapstick farce (not the last) as Namisrala attempts to besiege her now-womanly husband, and Velasruvan at first refuses, then reluctantly consents and (judging from the noises off) rejoices to be besieged.
The next scene introduces their middle-aged children, Pemrala, a married woman with two grown children and several younger, and Levranan, a tutor at the University. The humor flags a bit in this scene, as we are treated for the tenth time this year alone to the stereotype of the "distracted scholar"; Levranan has been so engrossed in his esoteric studies that he does not know of the sex-altering properties of the rejuvenating fruit, and is only vaguely aware of the King's rejuvenation. Pemrala, on the other hand, is concerned to ensure that her parents die a decent death of old age and do not deprive her and her children of their inheritance. They are both astounded to find that their parents have already been rejuvenated and exchanged their sexes.
The tone turns a little more serious than is appropriate for a comedy as Pemrala tries scheme after scheme to murder her parents, each more contrived than the last, and Levranan (thankfully dropping the "distracted scholar" stage-business) tries desperately to foil each scheme without alerting their parents, or the City Watch, to her malicious intent. The rejuvenated couple, meanwhile, oblivious to their danger, instruct each other in their new duties, Velasruvan teaching her wife to run the import business, and Namisrala teaching his husband how to keep the house in order and discipline the servants. These scenes must be taking place in a hundred households of nobles and rich commoners throughout the kingdom as I write, and if Lord Mesravan's predictions are correct, they will only become more common. Selasru portrays them with sharp wit and gentle insight.
I will say no more of the plot, except that it is traditional for a comedy involving financial troubles to end with those troubles resolved abruptly by an unexpected inheritance or discovery of buried treasure, and for a play involving reversals of identity to end with the reversal reversed; Selasru does nothing so obvious, and I commend him for it. I will write at greater length about the unconventional ending in my essay at the end of the season, when everyone has had a chance to see this excellent play.
What is there to say about the Legend of Kasemrian, or this new tragedy based upon it? We have all heard the legend; most of us have seen one of the classical theatrical versions. From the way this one is written, its anonymous author clearly thinks he is making insightful comments on the likely consequences of the use of rejuvenation fruit; but he has done nothing of the kind. Kasemrian snatched immortality by stealing the nectar of the gods from their holy mountain; the late Lord Mesravan and Dr. Vamrunu devised the rejuvenation fruit by philanthropic use of wealth and dedication to natural philosophy. Kasemrian was punished for his blasphemy by watching all his friends and lovers die of old age, and remaining to wander the earth alone forever after the gods assumed the good into the Fair Fields and banished the evil to the Pit; but those who eat this rejuvenation fruit will see most of their friends and relatives eat it as well, and will probably enjoy centuries of life together, grieving over no more deaths of friends than is usual in an ordinary lifetime. On the other hand, where is the parallel, in this legend, to the confusion of social roles engendered by the rejuvenation fruit? The supposedly light-hearted comedy has more important things to say to us than the supposedly meditative tragedy.
Trismegistus Shandy is the author of more than thirty transgender stories, available at Smashwords, Amazon, BigCloset, Shifti, and Fictionmania. They're currently working on a novel, a sequel to “Wine Can't be Pressed Into Grapes” and “When Wasps Make Honey”. “A Review of Two New Plays” is an excerpt from another unfinished novel, which they might get back to after finishing the current work in progress; how soon may depend on the feedback for this story.
Preview: A Raid and a Rescue
By Trismegistus Shandy
About the Story: "A Raid and a Rescue" started, I think, with me contemplating the various RPG portal fantasies -- stories where people playing a role-playing game travel into a secondary world and become the characters they were playing. I wanted to write one -- preferably with a less cliched secondary world than some such stories, which almost all seem to be set in D&D-style pseudo-medieval settings -- but I wanted a good twist to make it unique and worth writing. Then it occurred to me: what if it happened to everyone, not just to one particular group of gamers? And not just to people playing formal dice-based RPGs, but to anyone pretending to be someone else? -- actors, for instance, and small children playing Pretend.
The rest of the story required me to come up with an interesting secondary world and a plot for the characters' adventures after going into the other world; there's less to say about that. I wanted it to be different from the usual D&D-style worlds, and I wanted any fantasy races to be different from the usual elves, dwarves, etc.
The title comes from a line in G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy; I give the context here, although it isn't entirely relevant to the content of my story:
If we desire European civilization to be a raid and a rescue, we shall insist rather that souls are in real peril than that their peril is ultimately unreal.
I think "A Raid and a Rescue" is probably the best story I've written in the last couple of years; I hope you enjoy it.
The reporter on TV was apparently in the lobby of a fancy hotel or -- no, it was a theater. Some Broadway theater in New York, from the caption at the bottom of the screen.
"-- and they all just disappeared," a young lady was saying into the microphone, "right in the middle of the song. You could see their empty clothes hanging there for just a moment and then they fell down, and people were screaming, but you could barely hear it until the music stopped... Then somebody dropped the curtain and a minute later the band started playing something else, and the manager came out and said 'keep calm', but I've seen _Wicked_ three times and I know that's not supposed to happen."
The scene changed to a news studio, with a couple of anchors at a desk and the reporter from the theater lobby on the screen beside them. They were talking about how most of the actors had vanished from theater stages at 7:34 pm all over, wherever there were plays being performed.
"And movie and TV actors, too; a few minutes ago they were interviewing a cameraman from the set of Days of Our Lives," Karen said, muting the TV.
"Bill and Kim and Sandor aren't the only roleplayers this happened to either," Gerald said. "I just got confirmation. I posted about it to a couple of gaming forums, and just before you got here, I saw some replies -- other GMs talking about the same thing happening to their players."
"Damn," I said quietly. "That could have been me."
"There but for the hardassness of your boss," Gerald said.
"And the children," Karen said, her voice breaking off in a sob.
"Some kids have disappeared too," Gerald said. "The news didn't say, but I'll bet a first-edition Monster Manual that they were playing 'pretend.' Same as we were, only without dice."
"Or those method actors," I said, light dawning. "All pretending to be somebody else, somewhere else..."
I was interrupted by a scream from the dining room. We all jumped up and ran, hearing a crash and clatter before we got there.
Bill looked up at us, a terrified look on his face and no clothes on his body. He was lying on the floor next to his toppled chair, half atop his own clothes.
A Moment We Shared
I shimmy out of my underpants (by which I mean your underpants), and then we’re kissing. My hands cup your chin, my fingers splay out, and then I’m all over, all about your heartface, my once mirrorface, chimpmunked cheeks, will softened, pill softened, electrically smoothedface, steadying us. We need it, I feel you probing between my legs. The soft pad of a finger, and briefly the hard curve of a nail, on my taint, my balls, my girlcock. I’m humping your hand, which was my hand, and it’s nothing like the scrunching I used to do, those acts of masturbatory self-loathing. And now, you’re kissing harder than I am. Your hand is pressing harder than I am. And then your teeth are at my neck. The first scent of sexsweat is in the air, and you’re fucking me, and I’m being fucked. It’s usually me who is the aggressive one in these moments. In the past I’ve felt that if I didn’t dictate the shape of an encounter, if I wasn’t always asserting the image of the self I want others to see, then I would be in their eyes a pretender. Teeth pinch on my earlobe. Teeth snap-snap-snap in my face. Liongrowlpurr in the inches between us. As I happycower, I think of you matter-of-factly fingering lubricant into a groin that for me was sometimes ladyparts and sometimes just a gash, a falseness that could be found out by cock or tongue. Fuck me with it. On your chest, my pillowy breasts, nipples pale like their skin, hard to see; and on mine, your sensitive flatness. I see myself reflected in the dresser mirror, in your dykish fanfuckingtabulous body. To be in this body is, as you say of being in mine, to experience the wonder of an emerging mindrightness again. To feel with intensity, immediacy and with the whole of one’s body, with teary-eyes, and smiles that ripple out and set the hands shaking. To be filled with a sense that a future is out there, that life need no longer be moment to moment to moment. Sometime after, time enough for showers, a sandwich breakfast, and three episodes of Kimmy Schmidt, the phone will ring. It’s triggering having to use a name that isn’t mine for the peace of mind of a woman who professes to love me very much but who doesn’t truly know me at all. After I hang up you’ll snuggle away the badfeels. We’ll talk some, we’ll sleep some. The alarm wakes us up at four thirty in the afternoon. After you head off to my work, I’ll try again, out of habit, to fit the puzzle cube back together, but the pieces are still refusing to click into place. Eventually I’ll give up and put them back in the shoebox. The next time we open it it’ll be empty. I’ll read and reread every message you’ve ever sent and try as I might I’ll find that I just cannot write in your voice. Your eyes will be dry at my granddads funeral. Concerned friends will stage interventions (you seem different lately; no, really, I’m fine). They will never know, but eventually they will accept. People change. You move on, or maybe I do. The now and not now of remembrance: I shimmy from your underpants, and we kiss, and I grind my genitals into your hand, and you grind back harder; sounds, silences, proximities asking, answering, fuck me, yes, fuck me, yes, fuck me, and now I’m on my back and you’re straddling me, and I’m hard and we’re joined. You reached down to trace the place where you accommodated me. I watched a breast bouncerub against the upper part of your arm. Your fingers came away and seemed to float to my lips and I tasted something that was all your own, like strawberries and also not.
PersnicketyBitch is the curator of the TG Mixed Tape anthologies.
The Mixed Tape Recommends: Her Story
“I had always thought myself firmly on the progressive side of every issue,” journalist Allie narrates in the cold open of fourth episode of Jen Richards and Laura Zak’s Her Story, “but like too many in our community I thought my tacit acceptance of the reality of trans people was sufficient. I never questioned their total absence from my world. I now see that our great disservice is not just to those who we’ve excluded, but to ourselves, for our world is less rich without their stories, their laughter, their voices. It’s less that the world has changed for trans people and simply that we are seeing them as people, as our brothers and sisters, our parents and children, our colleagues, even our friends.”
Accompanying this speech are images of Allie (played by Zak) spending time with Violet (Richards), a trans woman who she is profiling; glimpses of animated conversations as they explore LA by car and by foot, of goofing with public art installations and sprints along a beach and splashes in the shallows. We can immediately see that their relationship is not that that of interviewer and subject. It is a friendship, one that is perhaps developing into something more. It’s more than a scene, it’s a mission statement.
All that Her Story is aspiring to be, and does well, is on display here. The series gives us several overwhelmingly positive portrayals of characters we don’t often see in mainstream productions, and shows them navigating what for most viewers will seem ordinary, if not day to day, then at least familiar situations. This simplicity of premise and executionis never going to make for the most compelling pitch, but it’s the key to the show’s success. Every episode of Her Story clocks in under 10 minutes, and there’s only a handful of them, and within those constraints Richards and Zak have chosen to prioritize character and rich depictions of small moments. There is one really dramatic reveal during the final stretch, and even though the resulting complication is resolved satisfactorily, I can’t help but feel that it would have been better served by the more involved treatment it would no doubt receive on a longer show.
And I hope a longer show is coming, whether it be in form of more short seasons, or a follow up with longer episodes (as with RocketJump’s Video Game High School), or a “Real Show” on a “Real Network” (as with Broad City). I love the characters that Her Story has introduced me to. I love Violet and her infectious grin and chemistry she has with Allie. I love Angelica Ross’ Paige, Her Story’s other major trans heroine, a fierce and principled lawyer who I absolutely want on my side if I ever end up in a courtroom. And it would be a real shame if we do not get to see their wonderful empowering lives unfold for many years to come.
Authenticity is a term you often hear when it comes to trans people, in particular the desire to live our lives in an authentic manner free of the preconceived notions that are placed on us by society, free to be ourselves and to discover what that even means, free to live how we will and love who we wish. Unfortunately, Hollywood's recent fascination with the trans experience is still in the novelty phase, where the transgender aspect is often relegated to being the titillating zinger to the story. So instead of trans drama we get trans melodrama. Trans characters become trans caricatures.
Into this space Her Story provides a different experience, more low-key and intensely personal. Here, trans women are played by trans actresses, and their stories have an air of authenticity about them. The six episodes of season one add up to just less than an hour, but they manage to portray a side of the transgender experience with a nuance we seldom see. The challenges, frustrations, and joys of its characters ring true as they grapple with things that are often unique to the trans experience. One character bemoans how she was read as trans, while another grapples with when to disclose that she’s trans to the unsuspecting new man in her life. A lesbian falls for a trans woman, and both of them fumble through what that means to their self-images as women. And everyone has a history.
My only frustration with the series is that the portrayals of the anti-trans points of view are a little heavy-handed, which I suspect is a side-effect of the short-form episodes trying to introduce drama. The abusive boyfriend or the anti-trans lesbian are not unbelievable characters, but their crude portrayals seem out of place in a production that otherwise takes care to give us more nuanced and complex characters. The interactions manage to remain more personal than preachy, but they do often feel like straw man positions for the protagonists to rail against rather than fully-realized characters. However, these are growing pains that the series will hopefully outgrow... a series so dedicated to striving for authenticity (for both its characters and their portrayal) seems unlikely to do any less.
~ Jenny North
I hope that you enjoyed this month’s TG Mixed Tape. If you did, or even if you didn’t and have some constructive criticism to share, please leave a review.
The next collection will come out at the end of March. Submissions are due in by the 27th of that month.
You can submit up to 1000 words of fiction. These 1000 words can encompass multiple stories. For example, you could submit one long story OR you could submit two 500 word pieces or three 300 word pieces.
In addition to your original fiction, you can also submit a 500 word excerpt from a story that you have published or updated in the previous 12 months. This must be accompanied by a description of the story as a whole, and one or two paragraphs outlining what you were trying to achieve with it or with the excerpt in particular.
I’d also like to include ONE longer piece (say 3000 - 4000 words in length) to be serialised throughout the collection in 500-1000 word chunks, separated by standalone pieces and previews. If you are interested in writing something along these lines, e-mail me your pitch. Here are some guidelines:
- Your story must contain at least two trans characters, one of whom is the protagonist.
- It should touch on one or more issues that affect trans people, however these need not be the main focus.
- Ideally it should be of an escapist bent, after all, what is a serial without cliff-hangers?
Your pitch should be no longer than 500 words. It should include a link to at least one resource (i.e. an article, a youtube video, a blog post) from a reputable source pertaining to the issue/s that you intend to address. This will be included as a footnote to your story for readers who would like to know more.
Send your pitches to me by Thursday the 25th of February. Depending on how many come in, either I’ll choose which one gets written, or it’ll be put to a vote. Hopefully you’ll find out whether or not you are to actually write the story by the 1st of March.
If your story idea is not selected, by all means, go ahead, write it anyway and publish it as its own thing. Your ideas belong to you and you will not forfeit the right to write them by pitching.
My email address is [email protected]. Send any and all submissions here.
Until next time, or until you get in touch.
W/R/T the framing piece, I wish I could claim to be the first person to think of replacing The Matrix with The Gender Binary, but it's an idea I borrowed from someone else. Needless to say, most of the words are Lana and Andy Wachowkis's. The changes that have been made only make explicit the queer, and more specifically trans, subtext of the original scene.
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