Weekend in France

Weekend in France

The invitation came as a gaudy gold ticket that vaguely reminded me of Charlie and Chocolate Factory. Obtaining the invite to the most secretive and selective event of the decade had been a process that took nearly two years. Eight people were hand selected from millions of entries through a process of phased elimination. The phases included sending in photos and hand written biographies, completing a forty page personality test, a complete financial review, logs of Internet search history for two months, full access to all personal social media sites, and a complete dossier on every relationship you ever had along with body measurements.

I’m not one to brag, but I was proud of my phase one biography. At twenty-seven years of age, I’d become one of the foremost social media diagnostic analysts in the world. That’s a big title for a creepy job where I run algorithms against social media sites to mine nuggets of truth about people. I like to think of myself as being the James Bond of private social media investigation. Rich, handsome, debonair, and a raise-an-eyebrow-and-the-women-swoon kind of ladies’ man. I got the brains but not the looks, the brawn, the money, or the devastating eyebrows.

So I’m a geeky nerd with glasses and a bone-thin body and my phase six relationship dossier consisted of half a page of triple spaced sentences. I did, however, have a golden ticket to spend the weekend at Sir Arthur Campbell’s French country estate. Sir Arthur, a reclusive eccentric billionaire scientist, just happens to be the preeminent inventor of the century and I’m one of eight people that will be the first to witness his latest and greatest innovation. He’s so reclusive no one knows what he really looks like.

The invitation came with a rather curious and strange set of requirements. I was to not bring any luggage or electronic devices of any kind. Not even a comb, especially if it was electric. I was only to bring myself and the clothes on my back. Apparently additional clothing and toiletries were all taken care of by Sir Arthur. A first-class airline ticket was provided and a limousine would take me to the airport. Upon arrival, I would choose a vehicle from a lot of fifty different models and drive to the estate. It was all very strange, but not out of character for the eccentric man.

Once I was seated on the plane and taken off a pretty blonde stewardess asked if I wanted a drink as she slipped me a plain manila envelope. It was all very clandestine-like. There’s nothing like a black limo, a secret meeting at a French estate, a short-skirted flight attendant, a plain manila envelope, and a first class seat to bolster one’s ego. I looked into her blue eyes and confidently pushed my heavy dark rim glasses up my bumped nose. “Martini… two olives.” I said it with a casual firmness as if this was something I drank every day.

“Yes, sir.”

I watched her walk back towards the front of the plane as I imagined myself earning my mile high club wings with her. Bond… James Bond… I opened the envelope and pulled out eight glossy biographies.

My picture was on the first page. James McGuire, age twenty seven, from Denver, Colorado. That was me all right. I quickly reviewed what was written about me and made note to reduce my online profile. They had way too much information about me, well beyond what I’d already provided.

The stewardess arrived with my martini and I took a deep sip and promptly spit it out all over my picture. My cover now blown I grabbed a napkin and started wiping up the spray. I looked up apologetically. No more James Bond, just plain old James McGuire.

“First martini?” She acted nonchalant as if this happened all the time.

“Is that what that was? I thought it was rubbing alcohol. How about a Coke?”

“Sure thing. If you don’t mind my asking, what’s with the pictures of all the people?”

“I’m one of eight people chosen to stay a weekend at Sir Arthur Campbell’s French estate.”

“The soup guy?”

“No, not the soup guy. He’s one of the world’s leading innovators in technology.”

She shrugged. “At least you get a weekend in France. I’ll go get you that Coke.”

I shook my bio for a few seconds to let it dry before putting it under the others.

The next bio was Billy Rae-Bob Willis, a forty-three year old man from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The guy looked like the typical fried alligator eating redneck complete with a scruffy reddish beard. His bio indicated he quit school in grade eight to hunt for nutria, giant rats of the swamps.

Next up was a middle-aged, but still pretty, Indian woman named Indira Modi. She was a forty year old singer and dancer for India’s famous Bollywood scene. This was quite the mix of people so far and no obvious pattern to selection.

The next fellow’s picture showed him posing without his shirt exposing his ripped muscles. I’m not into guys, but even I had to admit he was rather hunky. Trevor Bailey, twenty-four, from South Africa, originally of British descent, and a personal trainer. The guy oozed testosterone. There went any hope of me hooking up with some pretty guest.

The next page displayed a sultry looking long haired actress named Cherry Popper. I cringed at the obviously fake name. She was from California and even though it didn’t mention it directly, I would guess the thirty-five year old worked in the X-rated video market.

Her biography was followed by Hugh Bartholomew III, a pipe smoking man of fifty-two from the UK with an extensive history as CEO of various manufacturing companies. He looked a little stuffy to me.

I gave an audible gasp and shudder at the next bio. Olga Svenborggen, twenty-eight year old professional powerlifter from Sweden. She had to weigh four times what I weighed and looked like she could deadlift me, tie my arms and legs together, and hurl me the length of a football field. I made note not to sit next to her at the dinner table.

Finally, and with much hesitation, I turned to the last page and I couldn’t stop my fingers from tracing the girl of my dreams’ hair. Twenty-one year old Samantha Hunter from Tulsa, Oklahoma looked like everyone’s girl next door. She was very pretty but not drop dead movie-star actress gorgeous. There was something genuine in her smile and looks and her biography suggested she was as kind and generous as her smile portrayed. Maybe this weekend wouldn’t be such a bust after all.

***

The plane landed in Paris and I lined up in the non-resident queue to enter the EU. The line moved quickly until they came to me.

“Monsieur McGuire, how long do vous plan to stay ens France?” His accent was as thick as Inspector Clouseau’s slipping in the occasional French word into an otherwise barely decipherable English sentence.

“Three nights.” I’d flown through the night and it was now Friday morning in Paris.

“Where will vous be staying?”

“At Sir Arthur Campbell’s estate.”

“Le zoup manufacturer?” I tried not to laugh as doing so would likely get me into trouble.

“No, sir. He’s a technology inventor.”

“Where is vous loogage?”

“I was told not to bring any. Sir Arthur said he would provide everything I needed for my stay.”

“Vous have no loogage?”

Perhaps it was the sip of martini six hours before, or the quiche from the plane this morning, or just gas that made my focus slip. “No monsieur, I have no loogage.” I emphasized the word loogage a tad too long. He raised his hand and used two fingers to wave security over.

“He has no loogage.” The security team merely nodded, flanked me on both sides and led me to a secure room.

“Strip.”

“Excuse me?”

I heard the snap of a latex glove.

***

Apparently I was not deemed a significant threat so I hobbled my way through the rest of customs still feeling the strange sensations of a finger up my nether region. I was greeted by a lady holding up a sign with my name on it.

“You were delayed in customs, Mr. McGuire?” Her English was very good.

“Apparently it’s not nice to mimic someone’s accent.”

She raised an eyebrow and led me outside to a parking area. “Here are your directions to the estate, Mr. McGuire. Choose any vehicle you like.”

I determined already this was some big social experiment. What would it say to my host and the other guests if I picked the Lamborghini or the Porsche? There was a Land Rover, a Bentley, a BMW motorcycle, and other exotic cars, but there was obviously only one car for me. Bond, James Bond. “I’ll take the Aston Martin.” I hoped I’d not make a fool out of myself again.

She handed me the keys and without thinking I walked with the swagger of a man that hadn’t just been analy violated, opened the door, and sat down. I hung my head, got out, closed the door, and walked around the car to the actual driver’s seat. I imagined myself turning on launch control and zooming out of the airport but one look at the manual transmission and the stick shift on my left and I got out of the car once again and handed the lady the keys. “Too flashy, that one. I’d rather not draw attention to myself. I’ll take the VW Golf.”

***

Lucky for me the Golf also happened to have a GPS so I found the estate easily. Easily as in a two hour drive from Paris into the country with narrow roads, through misty fields, and nearly crashing into a cow. I was greeted at the gated moss covered stone walled entrance of the estate by a rather stoic looking gentleman with a machine gun. I handed him my golden ticket and he held up a portable device that scanned my face and compared it to photos of me. The gate opened unceremoniously and I had another ten minutes of driving before the mansion came into view.

The place was enormous and reminded me of Downton Abbey. I pulled around the circular driveway and up to the front door. A man opened my door for me and I stepped out and admired the peaceful and serene setting until the world was filled with the ungodly sound of a horn blasting a southern tune. A hummer skidded to a stop with a scruffy-haired and bearded head sticking out the side window screaming “Yeehaw!” I assumed this was Billy Rae-Bob Willis. I watched as he waved off the gentleman trying to open the door for him. “I’m no woman that needs my door opened for me.” He jumped down and looked at the mansion scratching his reddish beard. “Kinda precocious if ya ask me. Where’s the beer?”

A red Lamborghini pulled up and the door rose upward. I caught a glimpse of incredibly long legs with four inch stiletto heels. Cherry Popper stood, straightened her dress, and pulled the dark designer sunglasses from her face. She was tall, just over six feet with the heels. “Just like France… A little color would be nice. Maybe some fuchsia curtains in the windows.” Her voice was low and smoky.

I watched as Billy Rae-Bob walked over to her and sized her up. “Yur a purdy one.” She just smiled turned and started walking towards the front door. Billy Rae-Bob reached over and smacked her butt.
“Sturdy too. I like that in my women.” She hissed at him and made a motion with her arm and hand that reminded me of a cat having a seizure. For all her elegance, she was not overly graceful, and for all her beauty, it looked plastic.

I tried introducing myself but as usual was promptly ignored as the next distraction pulled up. The Land Rover seemed to lean a little to the left until the door opened and Olga stepped out. The car leveled itself. God, she was huge. She must have weighed nearly three hundred pounds. “Where’s the food? Three airplane meals are simply not enough!” I was certain the ground shook as she walked to the house.

I let the others move in towards the house being content to wait a few more minutes. I walked around for a little while before finally turning to go into the house when three more vehicles arrived. The Bentley was driven by Hugh Bartholomew III. Not surprising there. He waited for the door to be opened for him and stepped out with his shiny black dress shoes, layered British styling of vest, shirt and tie, and covered by a tweed jacket. Here was a man expecting service.

Arriving in the Porsche was Trevor Bailey. The misty cool French countryside seemed to not even affect him as he stepped from the car in his tight collarless t-shirt and snug fitting jeans. The guy was tall, surprisingly graceful, and looked like a male fitness model. His Afrikaans accent was a subtle mix of British and something completely unique. He performed some stretches before walking to the door of the mansion.

Indira Modi exited the Aston Martin I passed up. Her dark hair and olive-colored skin provided a fitting framework for her modest and gentle demeanor. The colors of her Indian outfit practically screamed vibrancy amidst the gray hues of the countryside.

I stood patiently and extended my hand to each of them but my greeting once again seemed ignored or perhaps just obscured by the grandeur of the mansion. I shrugged and went to follow them inside when I heard the telltale sounds of a motorcycle. Although the helmet obscured her face, the long blonde hair of Samantha Hunter was unmistakable. She pulled up next to me, took off her helmet and offered a stunning smile.

She put her helmet down, shook out her hair, and unzipped her leather jacket exposing a white buttoned blouse and shapely figure. “It’s so beautiful here. You must be James McGuire.” She extended her hand.

I took her hand in mine feeling the slightly damp coolness that her ride must have caused. “And you would be Samantha Hunter. Of all the vehicles you could choose, why the motorcycle?”

“I grew up on a farm and rode motorcycles all the time. How often can someone say they rode a motorcycle through the French countryside? By the count of the vehicles everyone must be here.”

“Yes. I guess we should go meet our host.”

“Which one was yours?”

“Pardon?”

“Which car? I sort of took you for the Aston Martin.”

“I drive those all the time. I chose the Golf to give someone else the chance.”

“How magnanimous of you.” She knew I was joking as I could tell it in her eyes and the playful lilt in her voice. She was amazing.

“To be honest, I was afraid to drive a right-hand drive manual transmission through Paris.”

“Honesty can be a little overrated at times. I prefer your first story. Sounds almost chivalrous.”

“I can be very chivalrous.” I extended an arm to her which she giggled at and looped her arm in mine. That entire interaction took just over a minute and I was already hopelessly crushing on her.

We passed through the large double doors into the foyer of the mansion. Samantha removed her arm from mine distracted by the flower arrangement on the table nearby. I watched her lean over the pull one of the flowers to smell. I looked around the rich wood-paneled room. A large staircase rose elegantly to the second story at the far end of the foyer. To the left and through a pair of double sliding wooden doors was the sitting room. To the right through similar doors was a large dining room.

“I’m Sebastian. You must be Mr. McGuire.” The quintessential butler stood before me complete with dark suit and ultra-perfect posture.

“That I am.”

“It’s currently quarter past one. Might I recommend that you rest in your room until three o’clock and meet everyone in the sitting room for drinks?”

“Yes. When do we meet Sir Arthur?”

“Not until just before dinner. He’s a very busy man and has been working hard preparing for your arrivals. Your room is upstairs and the second door on the right.”

I turned back towards Samantha but she’d already disappeared so I headed up the stairs and found my room. The mansion was huge and my room was large and well furnished. The bed was oversized but obviously an antique of significant value as were all the furnishings. A tall wardrobe stood silently beckoning across from the bed. I opened it to find several days’ worth of clothing. A dark blue blazer, slacks, button down shirt, and a tie seemed to be a fitting outfit for later tonight. I wandered into the five-piece bathroom with heated marble floors, a jetted tub, separate shower large enough for two, toilet, bidet, and sink with gold plated hardware.

I had never been a fan of public bathrooms and the plane and airport bathrooms sort of disgusted me. Seeing the toilet reminded me that I could certainly use some relief. I sat down and did my business unwittingly believing that there would be toilet paper nearby. I rather frantically began searching for something to wipe myself with, unable to reach or find anything. I looked at the bidet sitting peacefully yet also tauntingly next to me. What would James Bond do? I clamped my butt shut and shuffled my way over to the bidet and sat down, feeling particularly strange about the whole thing since there was no seat. Now I had to turn on the water, but it was terribly awkward bending around to reach the knobs. I decided the most logical way to do this was to sit from the front. I stood, clamped my butt again, and promptly realized my pants were in the way.

Still worried about losing bits of yesterday’s dinner on the floor and all over me, I untied one shoe and hopped around until I freed my leg. Now I sat back down facing the knobs feeling strangely like I was sitting on horse. Now, I’m not stupid, but I’d never used a bidet in my life before and they’re rather intimidating. There were two knobs, F and C, and a button. For cripes sake! Red and blue would be so much easier. Not thinking clearly I assumed C must be for cold. I turned the F and a jet of freezing cold water fired up my previously violated orifice. I yelled and almost fell off the bidet. I grit my teeth as the freezing water splashed and sprayed all my stuff everywhere. Finally I turned off the water and realized I should have grabbed a towel as now I was a sopping mess.

I stood up, dripping cold water over all my clothes, and tripped over my pant leg on the way to the towels. I lay there momentarily stunned by the stupidity of the device. I grabbed a towel, wiped myself dry, took off my pants, and glared at the spiteful bidet. Standing half-naked I pointed a menacing finger at it and threatened to sue but decided I couldn’t let a butt cleaning device get the better of me. I walked over to the side of the bidet and pushed the button. A jet of warm air pushed my hair away from my face. “That’s what you do.”

I carefully turned the C knob and a jet of water nearly knocked my glasses off. Hot water dripped down my face and onto my tie and shirt. Bloody French language. I required a complete change of clothes now so I played with the bidet a little longer until I figured out how to adjust the water pressure, get the water temperature right, and do my cleaning business.

I laid out my clothes in the bathtub to dry and stepped into the shower. This time I tested the water before getting blasted. After my shower I dried off and slipped into a luxurious white robe and stretched out on the bed.

***

I must have fallen asleep as I woke to the sound of ringing. Ding, ding, dong. “Fifteen minutes until three o’clock.” Ding, ding, dong. “Fifteen minutes until three o’clock.” This repeated itself a few more times but the sounds drifted further away. I shook the grogginess from my head realizing jetlag was getting the better of me. I rifled through the wardrobe and spotted a tuxedo. Maybe that would make a better first impression. James, James Bond. I smiled and got dressed.

By the time I reached the foyer I saw various members of the eight milling around in the sitting area. “James, you look so dashing.” I turned to see Samantha gliding down the staircase in an elegant black dress. My heart fluttered. She was beautiful and the dress accentuated her simple beauty.

“I have an event in Paris tonight. You know the kind where I meet my MI-6 counterpart and save the city from a dirty bomb.”

“You’re taking the Aston tonight?”

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that. Top secret and everything.” I extended my hand to help her with the final step.

“Ahh. Too bad. I guess I’ll have to ask one of the others to take me into the city. There’s an event at the Louvre where I must hand over a suitcase of radioactive material.”

“Careful, I might just have to handcuff you.”

She leaned in close so I could feel the warmth of her breath against my neck. “Would you have to frisk me as well?” She pulled away and gave a delightful laugh. Squeezed my hand and turned into the sitting room as if nothing had transpired. I watched her carefully at how easily she maneuvered the room and made conversation. I realized that’s just the way she is. Fun loving and easy going and probably not really interested in me at all, but I admired her ability to be gracious and sweet. I wished I had more of that.

“Let’s get this party started!” Bill Rae-Bob held two beers chugged one then the other before looking for more. I was definitely overdressed. None of the other guys wore a tux.

“Excuse me, little man.” I was almost bowled over by Olga who was moving from table to table emptying snacking food from plates into a bowl she was carrying. Her shoulders were larger than my entire head.

Trevor Bailey sat on the arm of a couch. His blazer did little to hide his muscled arms underneath. He was deep into a conversation with Indira. “With a little work, I’m sure I could get you back into top shape.”

Her response was an Indian bobble head shake. “You’re assuming I’m already out of shape. I’d like to see you dance for six hours straight or meditate in the lotus position for four hours at a time.”

Samantha was talking to Hugh. “It must be rewarding to know you had a hand in the success of so many companies.” She was sweet to her very core.

“Of course. However one doesn’t rise to success merely because of his name alone. One must earn their position.” Hugh was a stuffy commanding bore.

Cherry came up behind me and licked my neck. “Aren’t you a pretty little thing?” I looked up at her Botox swollen bright red lips as she sucked on a maraschino cherry before she pulled it between her teeth. “Mmmm.”

“I’m pretty sure Billy Rae-Bob wanted to hear more about you. Let me invite him over.” By the time I turned back around she had moved on to another victim.

I scanned the room and realized something. We were all strong stereotypes. I glimpsed myself in the mirror. I was a strong stereotype. There was the bore, the jock, the sweet and caring Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, the redneck, the mystical lady from India, the oversexed porn star, the hyper-masculine weightlifter woman, and me, the geeky nerd. This was crazy and it didn’t truly reflect society. We were extremes. This was all sexist, racist crap.

I turned and walked to the front door and opened it. The cars were all gone. Sebastian pulled the door shut. “Where are the cars?”

“They’re all back in Paris.”

“I think I want to leave.”

“I’m afraid that’s not an option, Mr. McGuire. This was stated very clearly in the contract. Sir Arthur will be joining you all soon. I suggest you go back to the sitting room.”

It wasn’t a request. I frowned and grabbed an energy drink I suspected Sir Arthur had purchased specifically for me. I sampled some of the hors d’oeuvres I could rescue from Olga. Indira was now on her own so I decided I should chat with her a little.

“Indira? I’m James McGuire. How was your trip so far?”

“Pleased to meet you, James. Traveling always makes it hard to find proper food and balance.”

“There is a lot of food here if you can get to it before Olga.”

“Most of it I can’t eat. I’m vegan.”

“Oh.” I hadn’t run into too many vegans in my life before. “There are some carrots on a tray over there. I could get you some.”

“I can’t eat root vegetables. It goes against my religion.”

“You’re a vegan that can’t eat vegetables?”

“I said I can’t eat root vegetables. No meat, no dairy, no eggs, no root vegetables. This is the only path to purity, peace, and balance.”

I never was very good in social situations and I usually found myself saying something I regretted. This was certainly no exception. “I couldn’t live on celery alone unless I could also pull sustenance from the air.”

She turned away but turned back towards me. It was clear I disturbed her balance. “Karma has a way of catching up with people, Mr. McGuire.”

“I’m sorry, Indira. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

“You intrigue me, James. Your lack of confidence has created a dichotomy that is hard to fathom. My yogi would tell you that your awkward attempts at social intercourse, your reliance upon caffeine, and your over compensating lack of style is a clear indication you lack self-awareness and inner-peace. You should bathe in the mother goddess’ river to cleanse yourself and avoid ingesting lesser karmic beings that digest your body and spirit like a flesh-eating virus.”

I stood there stunned as she turned towards Olga, anxious, I was sure, for a better conversationalist.

“That was smooth, James.” Samantha’s smile was infectious. “If it makes you feel any better she told me I was possibly eating her bad cousin that died a few years ago. I just love these little hot dogs wrapped in Pillsbury dough.”

“Karma is a strange thing. If I’m punished in my next life because of bad things I do, then if I help someone now do I inadvertently cause them to suffer longer so they can’t pay their karmic debt and thus my good deed becomes a bad deed? Perhaps my being an over-caffeinated awkward social intercourser omnivore helps end the suffering of those needing to get to their next better karmic life?”

“Don’t overthink it, James. If you do want to improve your karma for your next life, there is a moat at the back of the mansion and some celery sticks that might be a good replacement for the mother goddess’ river and eating lesser karmic beings.”

I shifted the conversation. “Have you noticed how extreme we all are?”

“How so?”

“Take Billy Rae-Bob. Could he be more redneck? Cherry licked my neck and appears to be making passes at anything that has a pulse. Trevor, is a walking billboard for a men’s underwear company and can’t stop talking about fitness. I’m a socially awkward geek.”

“I always thought I wanted to be a fitness model. I wonder what it would be like to be so fit like Trevor. What about me? How do I fit into all of this?”

“You are sweeter, kinder, and nicer than anyone I’ve ever met.”

“That’s nice of you to say, James, but I don’t see any connection.”

“I don’t think we’re here to see some new innovation. I think we’re an experiment.”

“That’s what I like about you, James. You’ve got the most active imagination of the bunch.”

Maybe I was overthinking the whole thing. Samantha had wandered off again, enjoying yet another conversation. Everyone loved her. Maybe that’s the experiment? Put extreme people together to see if by the end of a weekend we adapt to become a little more like the others. That our extremes would somehow wear off with exposure to other extremes.

I turned to see that Billy Rae-Bob had placed a veggie tray in the outstretched arms of a suit of armor. Karma… I shrugged and grabbed a celery stick but as I pulled my arm back my cufflink caught on the armor. I tugged at it and it held fast. I pulled harder and nothing.

“You need some help there, little man?”

I looked up into Olga’s intense eyes and nodded. She grabbed me under my arms and deadlifted me up and pulled me backwards like a rag doll. My tux sleeve tore off at the shoulder and the suit of armor, complete with the veggie tray crashed to the floor in a dozen pieces.

“There you go.”

Everyone was staring at me. Somehow I still had the celery stick. I waved it at Indira with my sleeveless arm, turned and snuck back to my room to change.

***

I returned to find the remains of the armor already removed and the conversations in full swing.

“You need more protein in your diet.”

“Excuse me?”

“To get some muscle on you. You need protein. Meat.”

“Here I was thinking I needed to become vegan to align myself within the cosmos. How about I eat celery with meat on it?”

“Nah. Just the meat. Meat and exercise and maybe some pills I can get you in South Africa.”

“May I ask why you applied to come here?”

“I heard the new innovation was in exercise equipment. I’ve got to stay cutting edge. You’re a smart guy, right?”

“That’s why I wear glasses. It fools everyone to thinking I know more than I do.”

“Gotcha. That’s smart. What do you think of Cherry over there? There’s something inspiring about her self-confidence.”

“She’s definitely confident. Being from California that’s probably helped establish her style and image.”

Trevor nodded thoughtfully and punched me on the shoulder. “Yeah… you’re smart.” I massaged my shoulder as he headed over to talk to someone else.

“You’re James right?”

“Yes.” Billy Rae-Bob looked a little like a feral animal.

“That thing with the armor was pretty cool. I don’t see no guns around, but they got lots of swords and stuff. We should grab some swords and attack some sheep outside.”

“You want to kill sheep with swords?”

“They’re not much bigger than the nutria I hunt. I figure, hey, how hard can they be to kill? You think Olga would come along?”

I raised an eyebrow cautiously as to not cause any women to swoon. “You like Olga?”

“She’s sturdy. I like that. Bet she could swing a sword too. Catch you later, little guy.”

We were all interrupted by Sebastian introducing Sir Arthur Campbell. People are never quite what you would expect. Sir Arthur was balding, potbellied, and was wearing sweat pants and top. “Welcome all of you to my humble home. I trust your travels were smooth and you’re finding your rooms comfortable. Some of you…” He looked right at me. “…might be wondering what is going on. You might even feel slightly unbalanced with the other people in the room. This was all intentional. You’re all here to demonstrate my newest innovation, but also to participate in an experiment. I’ll not speak any more of this tonight. I’ll meet you all for breakfast tomorrow morning at eight sharp. Sebastian will now take you into the other room for dinner. Good night, and once again, welcome.”

Sebastian directed us with a stiffly extended arm to the dining room. Seating assignments had been made and I hoped that I’d be next to Samantha. Unfortunately she sat opposite of me and I was sitting next to Hugh on my left and Olga on my right. Olga took nearly two seats worth of space. We all sat down and a lavish multi-course dinner began with the best wines I’d ever tasted.

“Thanks for helping me out earlier tonight, Olga.”

“My pleasure, little man. Finally some real food. What do you think of everyone here?”

“It’s an interesting mix of personalities.” I wanted to probe a little. “Who do you think is the most interesting?”

“Hugh.”

“Really? How so?”

“As you can tell, I like power but he has power of a different kind. I’m interested in that. One day I’d like to know what it’s like to command respect without having physical size and muscle.”

“Just because you’re strong doesn’t mean you can’t have the same power as Hugh.”

“Not true.” I watched her heap potatoes onto her plate. “While I could run a company, people are intimidated by my size.”

I turned to watch Hugh. He was precise with his cutlery. Cut a chunk of food, lay down the knife, pick up the food with a downturned fork, eat the piece, put the fork back down, wipe his mouth, and repeat. He kept glancing at Indira.

“We’ve not been introduced yet. I’m James.”

“Hugh Bartholomew the Third.”

“How are you finding everything so far?”

“I find everything perfectly well. I believe you are more appropriately asking what I think about everyone and the opportunity here. I think that the food is adequate, the rooms are acceptable, and the company, sufferable with the exception of one person.”

“And who might that be?”

“Indira, of course. It astonishes me that someone can have so much talent and yet be peaceful. I often wondered about a life in entertainment but I certainly don’t have the voice or natural grace for it.”

That was it. He dismissed me with his chewing, if that was even possible. I glanced over to Samantha and she was feeling Trevor’s flexed bicep. I groaned. She was too nice to get involved with him.

I probably drank a little too much wine as I was getting a little woozy. Even as the desert course was presented I was finding it more and more difficult to focus. It was early morning my time after all. I noticed the others also looking rather sleepy. I guess it had been both an exciting and taxing day for everyone. I looked over at Samantha again and she offered a weak smile before she face-planted into her cake. I started to laugh only to find I’d just done the same thing. The cake was kind of comfortable. I think I’ll just stay here like this.

***

Someone was screaming as I pried my eyes open. My head hurt as I adjusted to the brightness in the room. A man’s scream sounded this time. I wasn’t really registering everything well. I looked around the room and noticed the furniture was all in different places. I sat up and felt a fairly heavy weight move on my chest. I looked down at a most glorious and frightening sight. I was wearing a white silk nightgown and the weights on my chest were breasts. Long blonde hair floated in front of my eyes. I pulled back the bedsheet and noticed my legs were definitely that of a woman’s and my nightgown barely covered what I assumed I no longer had. I pulled back the hem of the nightgown to reveal a pair of sexy white laced panties. That’s when my scream joined the others.

I stood up, surprised I felt balanced, and headed to the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror and Samantha stared back at me. I raised my hand to my face and felt my lips. This was surreal. I considered for a moment feeling up Samantha’s body but that wouldn’t be very honorable.

There was much yelling and commotion in the halls so I started for the door but one look down at myself and I decided to find a robe to cover myself up. The wardrobe was mostly empty. There was a single white dress and shoes but no robe or any other clothing.

I cracked the door to the hallway open and the guests were all running around screaming “What happened to me!” I covered myself with an arm as best I could and stopped Billy Rae-Bob. “Billy, what’s going on?”

“I’m not Billy! I’m Cherry. Everyone is different! Who are you?”

“I’m James.” Billy Rae-Bob, now Cherry ran off down the hall. Trevor grabbed me and pushed me into the bedroom.

“Did you do this to me? Trevor are you in there?”

“No. I’m James.”

“James? What are you doing in my body? What am I doing in Trevor’s body?”

“I don’t know. Last thing I remember was falling into my cake. I think we were drugged. Didn’t Sir Arthur say something about an experiment?”

“We need to get everyone together and find Sir Arthur.” Samantha turned to the door but stopped and turned back. “Wow, that’s really sexy on you.”

We stepped into the hall and I yelled. “Everyone stop screaming! Meet in the foyer.”

Surprisingly everyone did stop and they all headed downstairs. We stood looking at each other. I looked over at myself feeling rather disoriented. Everyone started talking at once. “Stop!” When it grew silent again I spoke. “I’m James. Last thing I remember is falling asleep at the dinner table and waking up as Samantha.” We’d formed a rough circle so I pointed to Olga on my right. “Who are you and what do you remember?”

“I’m Billy Rae-Bob. I remember the same thing happening to me.”

I looked at myself to indicate they were next. “I’m Indira. Same story.”

Hugh’s body now had Olga inside him, Indira’s body now housed Hugh, Cherry’s body now had Trevor inside, and Billy Rae-Bob’s body now had Cherry inside. This was so confusing. “Did anyone have a different story? We all were drugged, fell asleep and woke up in someone else’s body?” They all nodded. I looked over at Cherry’s body, now Trevor who was playing with his skimpy red lingerie when he shrieked.

“I’m a guy? I’m a ladyboy?” Well that explained the low, sultry voice, how tall he or she was, and the fake everything. Come to think of it, I could see an Adam’s apple on him. What a trip.

“This is obviously Sir Arthur’s doing. This was his experiment and innovation. Let’s split up and look for him.”

“No need.” I looked at my old body pointing to a rotund mass of flesh lying on the dining room floor. Indira bent down and checked for a pulse. “I think he’s dead.”

We all gathered around Sir Arthur’s body. With some help I rolled him over to see Arthur’s blue lips. I checked for breathing and pulse and there were none. His body was cold. I’d watched enough CSI shows to know that wasn’t a good sign. “He’s definitely dead. If he did this to us, we may have just lost the only way back to ourselves.”

Pandemonium broke out once again. I walked over and sat down on the stairs and stared at everyone. Samantha came over and pushed my knees together and sat down next to me. “Careful how you sit.”

I looked her over. She was wearing only a pair of white boxer briefs. “Was this outfit in your wardrobe yesterday?”

She shook her head no. “Everyone’s wearing something revealing. Even Olga.”

I shouted again. “I have a theory. Last night I spoke with just about everyone. Each of us seemed to gravitate towards another person for some reason. Billy Rae-Bob, you commented to me about how you liked Olga’s sturdiness and now you’re her. Hugh, you remarked how Indira’s talents were attractive to you and now you’re her. I always wanted to be more friendly and outgoing and I’m now in Samantha’s body.”

Samantha caught on and continued. “I always thought it would be interesting to be a fitness model.”

Trevor spoke up next. “And I admit that I was drawn to Cherry’s confidence and sexual nature.”

I continued for us all. “It’s clear this was designed. We’re part of some crazy experiment. As to how it happened I don’t know. I suggest we team up and look for Sebastian or anything else we can find. Oh… Just for simplicity sake, I think we should call each other the names of the bodies we are now in. Call me Samantha. That’s if it’s okay with you Samantha.”

“It is. I guess I’m now Trevor. I’ll team up with Samantha.”

James, the old me, said he would team up with Olga. Billy Rae-Bob wanted to be with Indira and Cherry decided she wanted Hugh. “Everyone has a partner. Now let’s split up and meet back here in an hour.”

***

Trevor and I took the north wing of the mansion. As I walked I was acutely aware of how this body was turning me on. Every step caused my breasts to bounce and my hips to sway. That caused my nipples to brush against the silk and harden, and I felt the air travel up the nightgown and through my lacey panties. I never really noticed my body before, but being in Samantha’s body was like having every sense attuned to every nuance. I looked over at Trevor. “So why partner with me?”

“I’m protecting my old body, plus you seem to be the most logical and level headed person of the group. This body of Trevor’s is unbelievable. I feel like I could run for a solid day. It’s almost as if I’m itching to burn calories. I don’t know how you’re feeling, but I’m completely invigorated.”

“With Sir Arthur dead, what if there’s no way to return us to the way we were?”

“I don’t want to think that way. You’ll find a way back for us all.” He had more confidence in me than I did in myself. I was surprised his words didn’t sound hopeless at all. Perhaps, like me, he might be enjoying the change of pace. I was in no hurry to be changed back and secretly wanted more time to myself like this.

We wandered into the library and started scanning the books. I spotted a few higher up and I had to stand on my toes to reach them. When I turned around I saw Trevor looking at me intently. “You might want to try to find something a little less revealing.”

I looked at Trevor’s chiseled body and the bulge growing in his briefs. “Have you looked at yourself?”

Trevor blushed bright red. “This thing is out of control. It’s controlling my mind.”

“Welcome to being a man. It can be pretty embarrassing when that happens in public.” I had a hard time looking away. “I think there’s a basement we can get to over here.”

Trevor stayed close as we descended into the basement, if even a little too close as he kept bumping into me. I turned on a light and we stared at eight stainless steel beds and a vast array of power and computing equipment. “This must be where he transferred us.”

“Can you figure it out?”

I turned on some computer screens and looked at what I found there. Nothing made much sense. “I may be smart, even a tech nerd, but without knowing for sure what it all does and how it works, I’d be lying to think I could undo what’s been done. It’s been a little while, maybe we should head back upstairs.”

I turned right into Trevor’s arms. “James, I mean Samantha, haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like making love to your own body?”

“No, not really. I was never much to look at. I think I could understand it from your perspective though. All I thought about since I saw your picture yesterday was what it would be like to be with you. I never really thought about being you though.”

Trevor’s erection was growing by the second and pressing into my abdomen. “I’m sorry, this body is responding to you and I’m having a hard time controlling it.”

“Think math.”

“Math?”

“Yes. Add numbers together in your head. It’s a distraction. I’m doing it myself.”

“You’re doing math in your head right now to distract you?”

“Ever since I saw myself in the mirror this morning.”

“Why since then?”

“Because I didn’t want to start playing with your body. I didn’t want to violate you that way. And now, I’m doing square roots because that thing of yours and this body is making it hard for me concentrate.”

“You didn’t even peek?”

“No.”

“Not even a squeeze?”

I blushed. “No.”

“You really liked me didn’t you?”

“You’re my dream girl. The perfect looks, the perfect personality. How could I not like you? You liked Trevor, right?”

“No. I loved his body. I mean, who wouldn’t? But I couldn’t get over the fact that he had no personality whatsoever. So while I could fantasize about being with him physically, he was a moron. I sort of wished your personality was inside of Trevor.”

“You like my personality?”

“What’s not to like? And now with you in my body, I can see some real potential there.”

“We should keep moving.” I turned and started walking towards the stairs.

“It’s okay, you know? You can touch yourself and look. I won’t mind.”

My hand went to my breast and squeezed a little. A fire spread throughout my body as my nipple hardened. God that felt good. They were so sensitive. I paused going up the stairs I pulled my hand away when I realized Trevor knew what that would do to me. At the top of the stairs I turned around to see Trevor smiling mischievously.

“Let’s find the others.”

We couldn’t find them anywhere so we headed back upstairs to the bedrooms. We heard noises in the first room so we carefully opened the door and looked inside. Olga, Billy Rae-Bob was on all fours with Indira in my old body, giving it to her from behind. It was a sight that will forever be emblazoned in my mind. The stuff of nightmares. Olga was yelling “Yeehaw!” and James was blissfully mumbling about karma. We silently pulled the door closed.

I put my back to the wall and took several deep breaths. “That was…”

“Frightening. You okay?”

“I’m starting to think I might not want to go back to my old body.” I shuddered. “Let’s keep looking.”

Trevor opened another door to find Indira dressed in leather being a commanding mistress of Billy Rae-Bob. I whispered to Trevor. “That almost makes sense. Hugh is inside Indira. He was always rather domineering and Cherry is in Billy Rae-Bob. Who would have though she was so submissive?”

Trevor closed the door. “Do we dare open any others?”

We heard thumping from another bedroom and we opened the door to find Cherry and Hugh together in bed. I closed my eyes and pulled the door shut quickly. Trevor took my hand and led me to his bedroom. He closed and locked the door behind him. In mere seconds he had his lips on mine. I tried to ask him to stop but my hands went to his shoulders and I could feel his muscles. There was something so carnal, so powerful there that I began kissing him back. My hands moved over his sculpted back.

I felt his hands reach under the hem of my nightgown and lift it up over my head. I glanced down at my bare breasts and realized how full and beautiful they were. He kissed my neck and his hands moved to my breasts. There was no holding back and I moaned loudly. He took each nipple one at a time and sucked them causing my body to shudder with excitement. His fingers began pulling down my panties and I realized how wet they were.

He lifted me up and placed me on the bed, his tongue danced between my legs. I’d never felt anything like this before. It was amazing. He knew just where to touch me. My hands moved to my breasts and the combined sensations put me over the edge as I screamed out in orgasmic pleasure. This was far better than anything I’d ever experienced before but it wasn’t over yet. I looked at Trevor and he smiled, slipping off his briefs. His erection was huge. He carefully positioned himself above me and kissed me. I tasted myself on his lips and tongue.

He whispered to me. “I want you.”

I was touched that he hesitated and waited for my response. He was large and strong and could take anything from me. “Be gentle.”

“I will.”

I pulled him down on top of me, my lips seeking his. I was insatiable and shocked that I wanted this. I felt him pressing between my legs and then the slow filling as he moved inside me. The feeling was so unbelievable and indescribable. I was yielding completely to someone else’s control, someone that had so much more strength and power than me. I felt like a steel rod was inserted inside me, filling me completely. He rose up slightly and my hands stroked his triceps on their way to his lower back. My breasts moved in rhythm to his long and deliberate strokes. I could come again at any moment, so amazing the feeling was but I held off waiting for him. I could feel his body tense and his member swell inside me. I held back no longer and arched my back as he plunged deep inside me. My muscles contracted down on his erection as he erupted. I felt his semen press up against my cervix as he collapsed on top of me.

For me, that was it. Nothing could compare and going back became a hideous thought. “You’re beautiful.” He whispered as he kissed me.

He started to lift himself up and pull away. I held tight. “Don’t go yet.” He paused and cradled me in his arms. “Mmmm. What’s happening to us?”

“I don’t know, but I like it. We should get cleaned up in case the others are looking for us.”

We got up a few minutes later and I found I had to squeeze down below to keep the semen from dripping down my leg. The bidet seemed like the right thing to use so I sat down and carefully adjusted the spray and temperature. This body was so sensitive that I could have probably had another orgasm just from the water spray alone. Once I felt everything was washed out well, I used the air dry and found my panties and nightgown. Trevor was having a shower. I told him I’d head back to my room and change.

I slipped into the hallway and moved down a few doors to where I woke up this morning. Once inside I found a new pair of panties, a bra, the white dress, and white high heeled shoes. I struggled with the bra but everything else was simple. By the time I was changed and took a moment to brush my hair I heard Trevor knock and enter the room. He was wearing a tight white t-shirt and white pants with a pair of white dress shoes.

“How are you feeling?”

I looked him over and smiled. “Wonderful.”

He pulled me to him and kissed me, his hand trailing down my back to my butt. “I could easily get used to this.”

“Me too.”

“Maybe we should just get our things and leave.”

“As much as I want to, I think we owe it to the others to make sure they’re all right.” He nodded and took my hand, leading me back downstairs. We heard stirrings in the other rooms but decided they would come out when they were ready. I tried the front door but it was locked. The windows were as well. Sir Arthur’s body was missing.

We came back to the foyer when we started hearing voices. First to arrive was James and Olga. James was eating a hot dog wrapped in dough. “I thought you were vegan?”

“When in Rome… I didn’t realize what I was missing. Did either of you find anything?”

“We found a lab downstairs but we’re unsure how to use it. The doors and windows are locked and Sir Arthur’s body is missing.”

The rest of the group trickled down. Most had flushed faces and had changed their clothes. They seemed to have coupled up and their posture towards each other was telltale. No one was complaining anymore.

“How is everyone feeling?”

There was a unanimous “Great!”

“So just to sum everything up, everyone is feeling great, we are locked inside the mansion, Sir Arthur’s body is missing, and there’s a lab in the basement. Did I miss anything?”

Indira in my old body spoke up. “Olga is fantastic and you, my dear, have a look about you like you just experienced something wonderful. Karma suits you.”

I blushed and cleared my throat. “We have to believe that there is someone else in the house and perhaps the drugs or whatever was done to us might still be affecting us. I suggest we find some food as I’m famished.”

The new Billy Rae-Bob laughed. “A good romp will do that.”

I blushed again but I was enjoying it. Trevor led me into the kitchen with his hand on the small of my back. I noticed the others were acting similarly to each other. We found tons of food in the kitchen and we all sat around the island discussing options. I didn’t hear one person say they needed to be back in their old body. I looked at mine and realized I had been sort of cute in a nerdy sort of way but one look at myself in Samantha’s body and I know I received a huge upgrade.

Of everyone, I would have thought Trevor or Billy Rae-Bob would have had the hardest time. Poor Trevor winding up in the plastic shell of Cherry actually seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. His mannerisms were changing and becoming more effeminate. Billy Rae-Bob kept lifting heavy objects and I heard him whisper to himself how much he was enjoying this. I turned to Samantha in Trevor’s body to find him already staring at me.

“What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking we make a good looking couple and I’m anxious for a repeat performance.”

“Couple… couple… Hold that thought because I agree with you. Look around the room at the others and tell me what you notice.”

“They appear to be doing fine.”

“Look at their clothing as couples.”

“Cherry and Hugh are wearing black, James and Olga are wearing orange, and Indira and Billy Rae-Bob are wearing gray. We’re wearing white.”

“Exactly. Why?”

“I’m not sure why.”

“I get the feeling that we were all specifically chosen because of multiple factors. I believe Sir Arthur knew I’d be drawn to specific traits you have. Just as I believe he knew afterwards who would team up. Why else would you and I only have white clothes? He knew. There’s a possibility that he gave us the desire to team up, but I think it was more about inner desires and personality traits.”

“But to what end?”

“I’ll tell you why.” We all turned to see Sebastian standing there. “James, or I should now call you Samantha, is correct to assume you’ve been teamed up for a purpose.”

“Was it you that killed Sir Arthur?”

“It was. I had to put a stop to all this nonsense. The technology innovation he developed is, of course, mind transference. He wanted to make this into a game. By carefully selecting each of you he could watch how you all respond as couples. There is a door that leads into a vault. A computer terminal connects to the lock on the door and is waiting for a password. Each team receives a clue that starts them on a treasure hunt. The last clue of the treasure hunt provides the password to unlock the vault. The winning couple that enters the vault wins ten million dollars.”

“But why kill him?”

“Because you’re the third group he has attempted this with and no one won in the first two groups.”

“What’s the problem if no one wins?”

“You must realize Sir Arthur was brilliant, but crazy. He had everyone put to death.”

I sat in stunned silence. “So if you killed him, you can transfer us back and send us on our way?”

“It’s not that simple. I killed Sir Arthur too late. The wheels of the game were already in motion. The mansion unlocks only by his command or by someone entering the vault. There’s another problem as well.” We all waited for him to continue. “Transference is a one way process.”

There were noticeable gasps but no one started screaming. I glanced at my old body and saw Indira looking at my old hands and smiling. “How can it be a one-way process?”

“Brains are like muscles. While flexible, there is only so much change they can withstand before becoming damaged. A single transference damages approximately forty percent of the recipient’s brain. That will heal over time, but the healed area becomes scarred, inflexible, and incapable of receiving another transfer. I’ll put it this way. When James’ brain was mapped onto Samantha’s, forty percent of the brain tissue became damaged. This happened to each of you. Now, if we were to transfer again, one hundred percent of your brain map could only be successfully mapped to the remaining sixty percent of the recipients brain. In other words, you’d lose forty percent of who you are and gain forty percent of the other person’s brain. Most would likely die; others would become vegetables, or perhaps split personality. I’ve seen all outcomes.”

“So we’re stuck. I’m Samantha for the rest of my life?”

Trevor looked at me a little worried. “You’re not okay with that?”

“Actually I’m perfectly fine with it which begs the question as to why I’m okay with it. Why are any of us okay with it?”

“It has to do with the selection process. The first transfers the people fought internally. Some killed themselves and others died outright. You were all selected carefully to reduce that possibility.”

“But how did he know we would like each other?”

“The personality questionnaire contained two thousand questions. Dating sites match people based upon a few dozen questions. The questionnaire focused on three primary areas. Inner desires, outward characteristics, and mate preferences. Inner desires are those that you felt you could most benefit from. The traits that we say to ourselves ‘I’d really like to be like that’. Through study Sir Arthur discovered that people are the way they are because of how they’re responded to throughout their life. Thus, we each have a secret desire to be like someone else. You liked the way people responded to Samantha and her giving, caring, and kind personality. This made the transference from you into her body more acceptable. Of course, that was strengthened by the fact that you found her desirable, proven by your social media and Internet search activities. In order to make sure the new you and Trevor would become a couple, you first needed to gravitate towards Samantha’s outward characteristics and her to yours. We calculated at ninety eight percent that you’d find being Samantha acceptable and a ninety nine percent chance you’d both find each other’s personalities mate-worthy.”

“I would have married her in a heartbeat just by reading her bio but I knew I’d never have a chance with her because of my looks.”

Trevor rubbed my back. “I admit you weren’t super attractive to me, but I love your personality, quick wit, and creative mind.”

I looked around the room at everyone. “Are you all okay with this?” They all smiled. “So how do we get out of here?”

“You have to complete the game.”

“We can’t break through a window or door?”

“Not a chance. This house was designed to withstand a nuclear bomb. Sir Arthur was meticulous in reinforcing it.”

“Then I suggest we work together on the clues. There’s ten million dollars we could split eight ways.”

Olga, the old Billy Rae-Bob, stood up. “Hold on a second. It’s a game. Maybe I’d rather take the ten million for me and James.”

Cherry chimed in. “Yeah, just like sweet Samantha to suggest we work together. Hugh and I can figure it all out on our own.” Did someone just call me sweet?

The new Billy Rae-Bob approved. “Yeah! Let’s win this Indira.”

Everyone stood getting ready to leave the kitchen. “Wait! Sebastian, don’t you know the answers to the clues?”

“No. Sir Arthur was the only one that knew them. They changed each time and each team has a different set. The hunt starts in the library.”

There was a mad rush and I watched Olga push Hugh to the side to get by. I sat there with Trevor. He reached over and held my hand. “Are you all right?”

“I am if you are. I just stole your body.”

“You didn’t steal it, Sir Arthur did. Look at it this way, we both get to experience life as the opposite gender. How many people get to do that? I also have the added benefit of having a very pretty girlfriend. Growing up I never considered myself pretty, always thinking I was missing one attribute or another. Now, seeing my old body, I can see how wrong I was.”

“You want me as your girlfriend?”

“Considering what we’ve already done together I’d hope so. Just don’t tell mom what we did.”

“What do you say we solve those clues? Ten million dollars will go a long ways to establishing our future.”

***

We walked into the library and watched the frustration of the other teams. Trevor began walking around the room and I simply sat in the middle. How would I start a treasure hunt in a library? It had to be linked somehow to the teams. The team color, but that seemed too obvious, especially as I looked around the room for white objects. Maybe our names? Original names or new names? I’m thinking our new names as that would help reinforce the social aspects of the experiment. Trevor Bailey and Samantha Hunter. I stood and looked through the rows upon rows of books. There was no Samantha Hunter or Trevor Bailey, but there was a book written by Samantha Bailey. I pulled the book from the shelf and immediately a message sounded throughout the mansion. “You have five hours to complete the game.”

Sebastian walked into the library. “I don’t know what will happen in five hours without Sir Arthur here. I suggest you all work to solve your treasure hunts as quickly as possible.”

My pulling the book must have triggered the timer. I opened the book and found a note.

‘In the smoking room a code exists. The code unlocks a chest. Only light can find the way.’

I pulled Trevor to the side. “I found our first clue. Do we help the others get started?”

“Whether we win or lose the money we win as long as we leave here alive and together.”

“I agree.”

“Teams! Use the names of those on your team to find a book by the author. I found our clue under Samantha Bailey.” I turned to Trevor. “Let’s go!”

We ran through the mansion looking for the smoking room. When we found it, we could see the chest in the corner. It had a six digit code to unlock it. “The clue says look for the code, only light can find the way.”

“Let’s turn on all the lights.”

In a way this was sort of fun. I always loved treasure hunts. Of course running around in high-heeled shoes and a sexy white dress, in a very pretty young woman’s body, with a hunky boyfriend, to potentially win ten million dollars and hopefully not be put to death, was even more exciting. I paused to watch Trevor. Did I just call him my hunky boyfriend?

“What are you looking at?”

I bit my lower lip realizing that like the new Cherry I was becoming more and more feminine in my actions. It also might have been why people weren’t really seeing me as the old me anymore. “I just thought of you as my hunky boyfriend. On one hand that excites me, on the other I’m questioning if I’m now gay.”

Trevor smiled and laughed. “How can you be gay if you’re a woman that likes guys? You should be concentrating on trying to find the clue.” I sat there and pointed to Trevor, then to my lips. In two large steps he was across the room and had his lips on mine.

“Mmmm. That’s what I needed.” I looked down to see Trevor’s noticeable bulge. The pure power I had over him was astonishing. As a guy, I knew I’d do anything for the right woman. I pulled him down next to me and held his hand. His hand was so much larger and stronger than mine. “I’m not seeing anything. No shadows, reflections, or anything else. Do you ever watch television crime shows?”

“I’m not sure what you’re getting at.”

“It seems that the cops on television always enter a crime scene and never turn on the light. They inevitably use a flashlight.”

“The flashlight helps them narrow their focus. My uncle used to be a crime scene investigator. He told me that finding clues was a challenge when the scope was too large. He used flashlights to light up small areas at a time to help him focus.”

“I don’t see any flashlights in here.”

“No, me either. But we could make one. You see that small table lamp over there? If we could block the light coming from it except from the top, we could make it like a flashlight.”

“What if we took the shade off of it and put a tube around it? On the desk there is a writing mat. The green part is made of heavy paper that we can cut and form into a tube. With some scissors and tape we could then have our flashlight.”

We found scissors and tape in the desk and created a tube around the desk lamp. With all the other lights off the altered lamp projected a beam of light helping us focus on a smaller area at a time. We spent the next thirty minutes looking everywhere for the code. I sighed. Trevor put the makeshift flashlight on the table and pulled me into his arms. His hands grabbed my butt and pulled me against him. “You’re getting frisky.”

“Too much testosterone and a far too sexy girlfriend would make anyone frisky.” He began kissing me, and then moved his lips to my neck. God this felt so good. I lifted my chin and closed my eyes feeling his lips hit all the right spots to turn me into a pile of mush. I opened my eyes again and saw something.

“Trevor.” He mumbled but kept kissing me. “Trevor!” I pushed him away gently. “Look.” I guided his eyes upward with mine.

“The ceiling?”

“No, the fan. With all the light switches around here the fan never turned off.”

“What are you thinking?”

“The clue said only light can find the way. What if the clue is on the fan but the fan blades are moving too fast. I’ll hold the light and you flip the switch off and on over and over again.” Trevor tried it several times. “Faster.” Trevor toggled the light switch as fast as he could. “There!”

“What did you see?”

“I saw a number on one of the blades. We need to create a strobe.”

“What if we used the pen and put a disc of paper on top. Perhaps we could use the top of the lamp shade to give it weight so it will spin on top of the pen.”

We worked at this for about ten minutes but managed to make a disc with slots to let the light through. By holding it over the makeshift flashlight we would spin it until we matched the speed of the fan blades and the blades would appear to stop. It took some maneuvering but we managed to get six numbers off the blades.

“I saw 3, 7, 1, 2, 4, and 9. That’s twelve possible combinations depending on which way the numbers go.” Trevor started entering the numbers on the chest and on the fourth try we got it. We opened the chest to find the next note.

‘The master bath is a luxurious retreat. Find your next clue there.’

“I believe the master bedroom was at the end of the south wing on the second floor.”

“Okay. I wonder how the other teams are doing. This last clue took a long time to find.”

We made our way through the mansion and back to the foyer. Olga and James were in the dining room stacking glasses. They looked rather frustrated. “James? What’s going on?”

“We’re on our second clue still. Something about seeing through the lens.”

“Did you try adding water to a glass to create magnification?”

Olga and James looked at each other and smiled and then ran to the kitchen. Olga was quite the sight. I felt Trevor’s hand in mine and he pulled me upstairs. “You’re being so kind to them.”

“Maybe I’m just feeling happy and grateful?”

Trevor led me upstairs. The master bedroom was huge and the master bath certainly didn’t disappoint. We spent almost an hour looking around the bathroom finding nothing. In frustration we sat down on the edge of the tub. Trevor’s hand rested on my thigh and began slowly sliding up my dress. One look in his eyes and I could tell what he had on his mind.

“I’m almost embarrassed to say this, but I haven’t fully cleaned up after the last time and…”

“Think nothing about it. As a woman, I wanted to feel clean more often. I have the perfect remedy.”

“Really?”

He moved his eyes to the shower. “Ever play drop the soap?”

“No! My relationship dossier was frighteningly small.”

Trevor smiled. “I’ve never played drop the soap either, but there’s always a first time.” I felt his fingers unzip my dress as his lips found mine. “Besides, we need a break from looking for clues anyways.”

I was still a little hesitant being unused to this body and the foreignness of the being close with a man. I watched Trevor take his shirt and pants off. He was very handsome. I delayed a little as I slowly took my heels off while he turned on the shower. In moments he was back, his member standing tall and proud before my eyes. He helped me stand to my feet and my dress fell to the floor. His kisses and roaming hands did much to ease my nerves and soon he had me naked in the shower with my back pressed against the glass. We were covered in soap and our hands slid easily over each other’s body. I even was bold enough to wrap my small hand around his huge penis and stroke him gently.

He spun me around and I felt him pressing against my backside while his hands moved freely over my breasts and between my legs. The whole situation was incredibly erotic. He bent me over slightly and I felt my breasts swing and the pressure on my vagina as he pressed himself into me from behind. It felt incredible and I moaned out in pleasure. The feeling was so different than earlier when he was on top. The sensations on my clitoris were a little less. Trevor must have known this as one hand slipped around my hips and his finger found my clitoris while his other hand massaged my breast. I was in pure ecstasy. The motion of my breasts, the feeling of him deep inside me, and his finger on my clitoris was causing me to build quickly to my third orgasm as a woman.

This time I felt him tense and his hands pulled me back into him plunging his shaft deep into me as he came. The throbbing of his penis and my own contractions caused me to orgasm seconds later. I leaned back against him while he remained inside me. My lips found his.

We were both squeaky clean when we left the shower. I began drying myself off when I looked at the mirror. The steam had fogged the mirror everywhere except the next clue.

‘Unlock the lab computer terminal.’

We quickly got dressed and ran into Hugh and Cherry kissing each other in the hallway. “How is the clue hunting going?”

“We’re stuck on the second one still. Something to do with the eyes of the portraits. How are you both doing?”

“We’re heading to our fourth clue. Have you seen the others?”

“Just Billy Rae-Bob and Indira. I think they were heading up to the attic.”

A voice sounded throughout the mansion. “Only one hour remains.”

“We need to get moving. Good luck!”

I grabbed Trevor’s hand in mine like it was second nature to me. We rushed into the basement and all the computers were unlocked but one. It was asking for a password but the background screen had the following displayed:

‘JO______________’

“This is terrible. Look for other clues.”

Trevor and I ran around the lab looking for anything we could find. I focused on the stainless steel beds while Trevor looked through drawers.

Trevor paused. “JO could be James and Olga’s first letters. They’re a couple now.”

“Let’s run with that thought for a moment. JO for James and Olga, ST for Samantha and Trevor, HC for Hugh and Cherry, and IB for Indira and Billy. That’s only eight characters and the password looks to be sixteen.”

Trevor sighed and started throwing light switches on and off. At one point the room was bathed in black light. He turned to switch the regular lights back on again when I noticed something. “Wait!” On the wall in light glowing letters was the following:

‘O=Orange’

That was all there was. We looked around for more clues but that was all we could find. “If J is James and O is orange, James is wearing orange right now. I’m thinking of a sequence. James is wearing orange which is JO. I transferred into Samantha and I am wearing white making me SW. In order then we would have James being transferred into Samantha who was transferred into Trevor, who became Cherry, who became Billy Rae-Bob, who became Olga, who became Hugh, who became Indira, who ultimately became James. Adding their letters and colors we get a sixteen letter code. JOSWTWCBBGOOHBIG. Try typing that in.”

Trevor started typing the letters into the computer and we both crossed our fingers when he hit the enter key. A blank screen appeared. “What did we do wrong?”

“Without a clue, we can’t go any further. It’s not even going back to let us try again.”

Trevor held me in his arms. “It’s all right. We’ll get through this together.”

“I’ve been so focused on just getting through this treasure hunt that I’ve not thought about the future. Let’s assume we get out of here. What next? I go to Tulsa and play being Samantha? None of your friends and family will believe what happened nor will I know enough to about your life to truly be Samantha to them. And you? Are you going to go to South Africa and be a personal trainer? What about us?” Now I knew I was acting like a woman as I was getting all emotional.

Trevor hushed me and rocked me slightly. “I’m not leaving your side. I can give you everything you need to know about being Samantha. Come one. We’re done here. Let’s go back upstairs to the sitting room and relax.”

I let Trevor lead me but I wasn’t about to let go of his hand. He was my rock right now and I needed his steady strength. We weren’t sitting long before Cherry and Hugh came into the room and sat down across from us. They stayed silent, their fingers entwined with each other’s. They made a strange couple. Next came Indira and Billy Rae-Bob and finally James and Olga. We all sat looking rather defeated.

“Well done Samantha and Trevor. I’ve been watching the two of you very closely.” Sebastian stood nearby wearing a tuxedo. I didn’t even hear him come in. “For those of you that don’t know, Samantha and Trevor completed the treasure hunt.”

“But there was no door, no safe, and no gold.”

“That’s not entirely true, Samantha, but nothing about this weekend is as it seems. You see, I’m Sir Arthur Campbell and this…” Who we thought was a dead Sir Arthur came into the room wearing a butler outfit. “…is Sebastian. He’s been running things behind the scene and is obviously not dead.”

I was a little more than perturbed, but it was Olga that stood threateningly. “I’ll tear you limb from limb. What’s the meaning of all of this?”

“Obviously the innovation I wanted to show you all is mind transference but in order for people to adjust properly to their new bodies they need something to focus on other than themselves. Competition, confusion, and urgency need to happen so that the mind and body can meld together. The treasure hunt, the death of Sir Arthur, and the timed treasure hunt supplied all these things. Consider a map of the United States. Highways connect major cities together. Each of your brains is very much like that map however no two brains are alike. Samantha might have a highway from New York to Boston, but James probably didn’t. Our brains build highways for information to pass through in a completely unique way from someone else. By transferring a brain into another body, those highways and maps don’t align properly.”

Sir Arthur continued. “Your brains needed to adapt to your new body and build new highways. The treasure hunt was designed to ensure all parts of your brains functioned in such a way as to finalize the connections. By now, you’re completely melded. Had this not happened, you would have likely all died. This is a huge success.”

I looked at Sir Arthur. “Granted I love this new body, but you’ve put us all in danger. How are we to live moving forward? I can’t pass for Samantha without her memories.”

Hugh stood. “And I can’t be a CEO of a company I know nothing about.”

“Samantha, look how you’re sitting.”

I glanced down and saw I was sitting exactly as Samantha had before. My legs were crossed making sure no one could look up my dress. “What has the way I’m sitting got to do with passing as Samantha?”

“One of the things I did say that was true was transference is one way. The brain is damaged during transfer. It does heal however, but the damaged areas can no longer be transferred over top of again. As the brains heal, you’ll slowly become more like Samantha. Not your personality, but her mannerisms and her memories will slowly come to you. Sometime over the next two days each of you will be able to pass as the original. Consider this my gift to you. Everything you always wanted to be, even if you didn’t quite know it or acknowledged it yourself.”

“So now I’m Samantha Hunter and you’ve carefully found my true love only to send us on our way again tomorrow? Trevor will go to South Africa and I will go to Tulsa, Oklahoma. We’ll be half a world away from each other.”

“Love will find a way, Samantha. However, to help things along I’ve also taken the liberty to prepare job offers for each of you in many of my subsidiary companies. I have a company in Tulsa and in South Africa. I can arrange for Trevor to move to where you are or you to move to him. That’s the same for all of you.”

“What about the other groups of people?”

“That was a lie. You’re the first with the exception of some testing and volunteers. Any more questions? All right then. Meet me back in the dining room in two hours.”

Trevor wasted no time and took my hand to lead me to my bedroom. “What do you think?”

I looked at him quizzically. “About life? About us? About where we will wind up? About when my first period will be?”

He smiled and once again I nearly melted under his gaze. “I think life is great. I’m not keen on South Africa and I hear it’s no place for women, especially very pretty blondes. Your period should start Tuesday, assuming you’re not pregnant already. About us? I don’t want to live a day without you.”

“Pregnant? Oh my God!”

“Don’t worry sweetheart. Your body is very regular with twenty-eight day cycles. The most likely time for you to get pregnant is from eleven to eighteen days after the start of your period. The chances are pretty slim right now. What are you thinking about us?”

“That’s a relief. I think that we make a great couple. Our lovemaking is sensational and I have no desire to be with anyone else. That is of course if you remain who you are and don’t become like the original Trevor.” He smiled and swept me into his arms, a place where I could never get enough of. I looked down at us and noted the dirt and wrinkles of our clothes. “I think we might want to change for dinner.”

I went over to the wardrobe to find half a dozen beautiful dresses. There were also clothes for Trevor in there. “That cheeky bastard. Sir Arthur’s assuming we’re sleeping together tonight.”

“Let’s not disappoint him then. That red dress will look wonderful on you.”

***

At dinner I sat with Trevor on my right and James on my left. Everyone sat around the table next to who they were before. I needed some closure with Indira in my old body. “James, I don’t understand why you wanted to be me. Looking around the room, I’d gladly have changed places with anyone here.”

“There were several reasons. First, you were male. In my country, women still do the majority of the housework and can never truly rise to positions of power. Buddha was also a man and thus it suggests that before you can move on to the astral plane, you must become a man first. Second, you were a challenge to me. I felt balanced in my old body, but you were so unbalanced I believed if I could be you and find balance then I would truly become spiritually wise. Third, I gained nearly thirteen years of life. And last, but not least, I hated having my period every month and squatting to pee.”

“That’s funny as I’m very much looking forward to my first period.” Trevor squeezed my thigh as he knew what I was thinking.

***

The next morning I woke with Trevor’s body wrapped around mine. Overnight many fragments of Samantha’s life filled in the gaps of what I didn’t already know. Sir Arthur was right that the memories would come. With the gaps growing smaller and smaller, I had less and less trepidation over living Samantha’s life. It was a wonderful feeling.

I snuck out of bed and relieved myself and used the bidet like a professional. I stared at myself in the full-length mirror taking in all that I’d become. My long blonde hair framed my face and my blue eyes. The dark blue nightgown did little to hide my sexy body. I hoped I’d never take myself for granted. Trevor’s hands wrapped around my waist and pulled me against his morning firmness. His lips sought mine. I turned around and kissed him, his hands gripping my butt. “Good morning, sweetheart.” This was the second time he called me that. I rather liked it.

We got changed and waited in our room for a while. Once we got to the airport Trevor would go back to South Africa to tie up loose ends. We promised we’d be together in a few weeks in Tulsa. A knock sounded at our door. I let in Sir Arthur.

“I wanted to see you both off. I’ve wired five million dollars into each of your bank accounts. If nothing else I wanted to live up to my end of the treasure hunt reward. I have suitcases in case you wish to take any clothing with you. I thought you might want to drive together to the airport.” He tossed me a key.

“Thank you.” I leaned over and hugged him, kissing him on the cheek.

“You’ve changed.”

“Only for the better.” With that he bowed slightly and left.

“What car did he give you?”

“Not telling.”

“Oh yes you will.” Trevor tackled me playfully and we wrestled for the key which dropped forgotten from my hand onto the tile floor.



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