The Monster Mash -- a TG Mixed Tape

When a coven's spell to spice up their Halloween party goes wrong, it affects everyone in costume for thousands of miles, instead of just the people at their party. See how it affects people from Tokyo to Boston in seven stories by MrSimple, Rellawing, Roberta J. Cabot, and Trismegistus Shandy.

The Monster Mash -- a TG Mixed Tape

edited by Trismegistus Shandy

Table of Contents

Come As You Would Be by Trismegistus Shandy

Sir Andy by MrSimple

Saving Face: Epilogue by Rellawing

One Night as the Queen by MrSimple

Me and Marilyn by Bobbie C

Great Responsibility by Trismegistus Shandy

Zodiac by MrSimple

Afterword by Trismegistus Shandy

* * *

Come as You Would Be

by Trismegistus Shandy

* * *

The invitation I'd received from the Shapers' Coven was intriguing, and I accepted and marked my calendar right away. They specialized in transformation magic, something I've never had an iota of talent for, and I wasn't going to turn down an offer like this:

The Shapers' Coven invites you to share an evening of transformation and self-discovery:

Come as You Would Be

Wear a costume, arrive on time, and be transformed into the likeness you have assumed at eight o'clock on the dot. The transformation will last until dawn. Your mindset and attitude toward the entity your costume represents will strongly affect the spell.

Some safety rules:

1. Don't cosplay as anything mindless, like a zombie, or with an addiction to blood, life force, human flesh, etc., like a vampire.

2. If you cosplay as a female character, and are considering having sex before dawn, be sure to think of your character as infertile. Pregnancy could make the transformation permanent whether your natural form is male or female.

3. Don't cosplay as something that can't survive in Earth's atmosphere, pressure, temperature, gravity, etc.

4. Don't cosplay as an inanimate object. Sapient robots should be safe, however, or magically animated dolls, etc.

5. Don't cast any spells on yourself before coming; use only mundane costume parts and makeup. Prior magic could interfere with the transformation spell.

Arrive between seven and seven forty-five, please. RSVP to Evelyn Killian, 785-555-0077.

I mulled over my costume for days before deciding; who knew whether they'd have another party like this next year. Finally, I decided, put the costume together (driving to Kansas City for most of the parts, where nobody would recognize me), and nervously tried it out in the privacy of my apartment the day before the party.

I made sure to arrive just after seven. I didn't want to risk being late; even though we don't have the unpredictably heavy traffic that some cities do, there was always the possibility of a flat tire or engine trouble. Once I parked and got out in front of Evelyn and Brandy's house, though, I felt nervous about walking around in this costume for almost an hour before it became reality and my body changed to fit it perfectly. I screwed up my courage, walked up to the door, and rang the bell.

Evelyn answered almost immediately. She was costumed as a slightly damaged gynoid, with part of her cheek and forearm showing exposed circuitry, drawn on her skin with face paint, and a high-tech looking monocle over one eye. She squinted at me for a moment before saying: "Seth? You look great. Nice choice."

"Thanks," I said, wondering how much of my natural blush would show through the artificial blush I'd applied to my cheeks. "I was afraid it would look ridiculous until the spell takes effect..."

"Don't be embarrassed," she said. "I'll bet half the people here will be crossplaying. I'd do it myself if I hadn't already tried being a man several times and decided I didn't like it. Come on in."

I went in. Most of the people who were there that early were members of the Shapers, including their venerable mentor, Maude Holtzmann. Evelyn introduced me to the people I didn't already know. Over the next forty minutes, the rest of the guests arrived, and I saw that Evelyn was right: I wasn't the only one in an opposite-gender costume by any means, so I didn't feel anywhere near as embarrassed as I'd felt when I walked up to the door.

At seven forty-five, the Shapers gathered in a circle in the basement. Some of us watched from outside the circle, while others continued talking, dancing, or playing games upstairs. I sat at the foot of the basement steps with my friend Blake, an agricultural mage who'd also decided to crossplay -- as a pollination fairy. I figured he'd be insect-size when the spell took effect. "And maybe I can go out and work some healing magic on a few beleaguered bee colonies before dawn," he said in a low voice as the coven members prepared to begin.

The chanting began and we observers fell silent, listening and, at least in my case, only understanding a little. Eight o'clock approached as the chanting and gesturing continued, and different coven members burned small amounts of this and that in the little braziers each of them had.

Then suddenly there was a flash of light and a high-pitched sound like a chime or bell, and I felt really weird for a moment. Blake seemed to vanish from beside me, but I barely noticed, being focused on my own body. I reached up to gingerly touch one of my new breasts... and was distracted by a tiny woman with buzzing wings, wearing a dress that seemed stitched together from a couple of small leaves, suddenly zooming in front of my eyes. "You look gorgeous," she said in a high, squeaky voice.

"Thanks, Blake," I said. I would have said more, but someone screamed.

"She's dead!" -- "Call 911!" -- "No, you idiot" -- "My sensors indicate she died of a blood clot in the brain. There is a 98.3% chance she felt no pain."

I scrambled to my feet, gathering up my skirts, to get a better look. The coven members were gathering around Maude, who had collapsed.

"Do you realize what this means?" someone in a Wonder Woman costume asked. "At that point in the spell, her death would have acted like a human sacrifice."

"Oh, no," said someone wearing a Viking helmet and armor.

Transformation wasn't my specialty, but even I knew what that meant. Her unintentional "sacrifice" would have supercharged the spell with far more magic than was intended to go into it. The spell might affect people outside the house, or last past tomorrow's dawn, or both.

"Can you figure out how far the spell went and how long it's going to last?" I asked.

"We will work on reverse-engineering the magic," Evelyn's calm monotone said. "I suggest the rest of you go upstairs and turn on CNN and the local news, and start checking social media for keywords like 'transformation.' If the spell has extended well beyond this house, you will soon see evidence of it."

I turned and hurried up the stairs.

* * *

After I'd told the people upstairs what had happened, there was shock and grief among those who'd known Maude well, but a couple of people had the presence of mind to turn off the movie someone had put on (the 1932 version of The Mummy) and turn on a local news channel. It wasn't showing anything yet, but it was too soon for the station's reporters to notice anything unless they were at a costume party or trick-or-treating with their kids somewhere within range of the spell. Someone else pulled out a tablet and pulled up CNN's live feed, and several others started checking social media and looking for relevant tags.

Meanwhile, despite all that, we all had new bodies to get used to. I wanted to slip into one of the bathrooms to have a look at myself all over, but -- surprise! So did everyone else who'd changed gender and a lot of the ones who hadn't. There was a line of six or seven people outside each bathroom, even with everything else going on. There was also a group of people sharing the full-length mirror in the guest bedroom; I joined them after realizing how long the bathroom lines already were.

It wasn't long before an elf with a bow and arrows slung over his back exclaimed: "Here's something!" He held up his phone and read aloud: "Everybody at this party who was wearing a costume just changed in some way. I'm like a hundred times stronger and my beard is real now. Did this happen to anybody else?' -- He doesn't say where he is, but... hmm... from some of his earlier tweets, I think he's in the St. Louis area."

We heard shouts from the living room a few moments later, and several of us went back to see what was up. CNN was showing a shaky cell-phone video of a scene similar to the party we were having here: some people who might have simply been in costume, but others who had pretty obviously been transformed into something nonhuman. The narration was describing some of the less obvious changes the people at the party had undergone. "Dave there, the vampire, he doesn't just have real fangs; he's like totally different, suave and seductive... you see those girls he's got hanging off his arms? One of them wasn't even a girl half an hour ago..."

That made me wonder what personality changes I might have gotten and hadn't noticed yet, but I didn't have a lot of time to introspect about it just then, because the phone video clip ended and the studio reporters said that was just one of dozens that were popping up from all over the U.S, Canada, even as far as Mexico City.

"So the spell extended thousands of miles from here," a catgirl said, her ears twitching. "Does that mean it's not going to last any longer than planned? It'll wear off at dawn, right?"

Nobody knew; the Shapers were still in the basement, casting diagnostic spells.

"I'll go downstairs and tell them what's on the news," I said, and left the living room.

* * *

I found the Shapers busy casting something complex in a spell circle, and I knew better than to disturb them. I sat by myself in a quiet corner of the basement, reading the news on my phone and feeling myself up a little while trying not to be too obvious about it, until they finished the spell, stepped out of the circle, and relaxed.

"What did you find out?" I asked.

"The spell extended somewhere between six and seven thousand miles from this house," droned the gynoid. I hadn't realized robots could work magic, but I guessed it wasn't all that surprising. "It should not last past dawn, however, unless someone gets pregnant, gets a second transformation spell cast on them, or removes any garment or accessory that is part of their costume. Then it will become permanent."

I let that sink in for a moment, and then exclaimed: "But -- lots of people are going to take off their costumes! Hell, people are probably already doing it upstairs in the bathrooms!"

"Very likely," Evelyn said. I turned and ran up the stairs, and soon I was banging on the hall bathroom door. "Don't take off your clothes!" I shouted. "It will make the spell permanent!"

I heard a muffled voice through the door, repeated myself a little louder, and then rushed through the house warning everyone else. Some of the Shapers had come upstairs and were doing the same. "We must get the word out," Brandy (who had dressed as a Shi'ar from Marvel Comics, and had a kind of feathery mohawk) was telling the people in the living room. "Everyone get on Twitter and Facebook and warn people not to take off any part of their costume if they're affected by this. The coven is going to work on contacting the news agencies."

So we all got out our phones and started doing that.

* * *

After a few minutes of posting warnings on social media, a number of us left the party to go out and warn the local trick-or-treaters and their parents not to take off any part of their costume before dawn. We couldn't possibly get to everyone in time, but we had to try.

Of course, we realized later, once kids (and their parents or older siblings, if they were also wearing costumes) started transforming, they'd mostly gone home right away instead of continuing to trick-or-treat. Hardly anyone was on the streets of Evelyn and Brandy's neighborhood; Blake and I didn't see anyone for several minutes after we left the house. When we did, it was bad news. There were two zombies, a teenage boy and a girl, scrabbling ineffectually at the door of someone's house. One of them was moaning wordlessly and the other was saying "Braaaaaiiiins" over and over. I wondered what that said about their attitudes toward fictional zombies and whether they knew anything about the real ones before their transformation... but I didn't wonder long, because we had to do something about them.

The zombies had belatedly noticed us, and were now shambling towards us. Blake flew up over their heads and started working a spell to make the grass under their feet grow fast and trip them up, while I cast a binding spell. Within another minute, I was levitating the restrained zombies back toward Evelyn and Brandy's house, while Blake continued scouting.

"Got a couple of shamblers," I said when Brandy opened the front door. "I don't think they've lost any clothes, but it's hard to be sure."

"Did they hurt anyone?"

"They were trying to get into a house when we found them, but they weren't smart enough to try smashing a window."

"Good. We'll keep them restrained until dawn... hopefully they'll change back then."

I went out to rejoin Blake and keep looking for more unfortunate victims.

* * *

We found a few more victims in the next few hours -- fewer and fewer as the night went on, mostly those who had lost their reason or memories because of the transformation and couldn't go home. Meanwhile, others were trying to get warnings out with limited success. Out of over twenty million people who were affected by the spell, we estimate that less than a million heard the warnings in time and less than half heeded them. Many who would have heeded them didn't hear them until too late. Not many news outlets reported on our warnings in the critical first couple of hours, and those who did didn't treat them seriously; it wasn't until eleven (central time) that three of the Shapers forced their way into a Kansas City television station and demonstrated their magic for the news anchors in front of cameras, to prove their credentials and give weight to their warnings. By the time cable news channels picked up the footage from our local station and repeated it, and it went viral on the Internet, it was too late for many of those affected, who'd already taken off some or all of their costume to explore their changed body or just to go to bed.

I somewhat regret not having a chance to undress and explore my temporary body, but I think I would have regretted making the change permanent even more. After seven hours of roaming around town rounding up zombies and others who'd suffered a loss of intelligence or self-control, I finally crashed on the floor of one of Brandy and Evelyn's guest bedrooms, still fully dressed (and with my two-inch heels duct-taped to my feet to keep them from slipping off during the night). When I woke up, I was in my original body, as were most of the partygoers who'd stayed to help out and crashed there afterwards.

In the months after the public exposure of magic, those like the Shapers who knew transformation magic set up a program to gradually restore those who had suffered the worst from the spell -- losing intelligence, mobility, the ability to speak, or important senses. But there was no way to change everyone back; there were too many, scattered over too wide an area, and even with another, deliberate human sacrifice, there would be no way to accurately target those who wanted to change back but not reverse the spell on those who liked their new forms -- people who had been healed of gender dysphoria, paraplegia, or various chronic illnesses. Not to mention the many new potential mages we had to test and begin training; about five percent of those in costume at the moment of the spell were dressed as some sort of witch, wizard, magical girl, or some such.

Now the Shapers have come up with a way to change back a large number of people at once without a human sacrifice. The trick is, you'll have to come to Lawrence, Kansas and all squeeze into the University of Kansas stadium on Halloween; everyone who registers in the next month will be entered in a ticket lottery, those with disabilities getting one or more extra tickets, and fifty thousand people will get in. Dress as your old self -- or the person you wish you'd cosplayed as last year.

* * *

Trismegistus Shandy is the author of more than fifty transgender stories, available on Smashwords, Amazon, TGStorytime, Shifti, BigCloset, Fictionpress, Fictionmania and DeviantArt. They're currently working on the third draft of Like Bees in Springtime, the sequel to Wine Can't be Pressed into Grapes and When Wasps Make Honey.

* * *

Sir Andy

by MrSimple

* * *

“Mary? Do you think you are a bit too old for that?” Our mother referred to the teenager in a little girl's dress.

I watched my big sis -- that was Mary -- look down at me with a smile and my rosy cheeked face smiled right back up at her. Then as a response to our mother, we smooshed our cheeks together to make a bigger smile. “Nope! It's Halloween and we can be as silly as we want.”

Our mother shook her head as she added: “And what is Ann wearing?”

My big sis laughed as she gave me a great big hug! “She's being my male chaperone tonight. Isn't that right, Sir Andy?” Before I could respond, my sis placed her hand on my short red head of hair and nudged my head down to yield an agreeable nod of confirmation for our amused mother to witness.

As I always do around my big sis, I simply kept quietly smiling.

...It felt weird, though. That was, the costume felt unnatural.

The knightly outfit my sis bought for me was made of a soft and thick fabric: a steel-grey outfit. But I could feel a weight to it.

A warm, welcome comfort.

A newborn purpose.

A responsibility.

And I couldn't complain: she had said it was special ordered specifically for my size. It was different, and I enjoyed mixing things up. Especially compared to the last few years of Trick-or-Treating.

The armor appeared brilliant on me. Absolutely every single moment, I believed more that the knightly getup was becoming hardened steel!

Ridiculous, but... I felt a lot less soft and squishy. Now I was... formidable? My big sis made a big deal about me being her protector tonight. And that had blossomed remarkably stalwart senses in me the likes of which I'd never experienced in my life!

For the sake of my new sense of pride, I kept my waterworks in check and remained smiling as always.

For my big sis tonight, my life would soar to any heights to be what she wished me to be.

For a profound honor that my big sis forged into my heart, I would always be there for her!

I honestly felt as if I was a knight in shining armor! Even the little blade buckled at my hip had a certain weight of responsibility -- my sword was only for my big sis.

With my new sense of standards, my sword being drawn for any cause other than in defense of Mary would be a petty excuse for bravado.

“Okay, you two.” Mom shook her head again as she looked us over in disbelief. “Be sure to be back no later than ten.” As we turned to leave, Mom yelled at us: “And don't go down any strange streets. Also none without more than one porchlight on.”

That last rule struck a chord in us. “But Mom, it's already late as is. If we cut --”

“No buts or cuts, or I'll smack you one across your butt.” When I heard that, my cheeks turned a brighter red! My big sis getting spanked wasn't a common occurrence at all. “Do I make myself clear? Porch lights-s. More than one light on, and walk with a crowd.”

“Mom, I'm not alone. See?” Mary grabbed my sword... okay, to be honest, it was actually a letter opener. Anyways -- sis grabbed it and my hand to force me to do a strikingly gallant gesture of dignified fealty with the magnificently gleaming blade. “Sir Andy will protect me with his legendary Opener.”

“And who's going to protect Sir Andy tonight?” In response to mom, Mary rapped her knuckles on my fitted 'breastplate' of steel-grey fabric. “Oh, whatever! Seriously... be careful.”

“We will, Mom! Happy Halloween!” Mom waved at us as we went out into the night...

* * *

Mary didn't listen...

I remembered it clearly, and forever would. We were finished down one block with a bag half full and saw the lit porches on the other -- but we would have to walk through a dark corner before we reached it.

It would've been our last line of houses! When we would finish there, we'd head back. Mary had promised and I would ensure that she kept that promise.

I failed my duty.

We heard a conversation, which we thought meant there were people nearby. We thought we were safe in a crowd!

We didn't know it was a prowler listening to a talk show from inside a van!

Once we began to walk alongside its dark and bulky silhouette, we realized what we were hearing --

-- and the trap was sprung before we could ever react! The side door slid open so fast that we froze with fright!

He pulled us in and slammed the door shut. A very big and dark outline of a man hovered over us and clapped so loudly to get our attention that we submitted by fearful instinct. He brought his chubby finger up to his lips to shush us before wedging himself back into the front seat and driving us off into the long night...

We had driven a far way out and for far too long. Mary was crying by the time we felt the van jerk and throw us against the back of the driver's seat. I was too frightened to say or do anything.

But not my big sis!

The driver had huffed and parked the van before he squeezed back to where we huddled together. His great expanse loomed dangerously over us, as if we would be crushed at any moment... but I couldn't be certain if it would be his weight or body odor that did us in first.

The bullish shape of his head came down to level with us. “That's funny. I'd thought you were bigger when I saw you walk up to my humble abode.” He laughed hard and loud before he made a statement: “That's sweet! Nice and small are just the way I like my little girls.”

“Let us go!” Mary's voice squeaked. At first, I thought it was because she was frightened, but no... she was smaller, younger.

My big sis was a little girl!

She tried to fight him... I felt so horrible, not knowing how to fulfill my new role as he grabbed my sister and tossed her around like she was nothing!

When he reached for her, she kicked out at him in a last ditch effort --

-- and he grabbed her leg to savagely bite her!

To have bitten my big sis, he was nothing but a rabid animal!

And there I was, petrified in my protective steel cage! Not worth worrying about to the bestial man...

In the eyes of that feral predator, I was a scared, rosy-cheeked, little boy in a tin can.

We were subdued, but not before Mary reached out and we hugged each other closely. I felt such deep shame as I watched him tape my big sister's mouth shut just inches above my yarn-thick red hair.

Again he picked us up like we were insubstantial, without care how or where he recklessly carried us, and used his monstrous bulk to force the van's side door popped open. And again with the fenced gate. And again with his broken front door.

He grunted with a fetid air of satisfaction as he carried us into his filthy den. The horrid condition inside our captor's home reflected the image we had of the depraved Beast! We were set down and aside for a moment to be appraised, ogled.

The beast had eyes that were too close to each other. They were the kind that never hid what he laid his eyes on.

And he focused specifically on my now less developed big sister!

The grotesquely fat man had zip-tied Mary's ankles together to immobilize her, but she was also tied around the arms in a way to keep her hugged to me tightly. If she were to hop up and attempt an escape with my augmented weight of real armor, I would accidentally cause us to topple over.

...prone and exposed to the beast.

And it appeared that was how he preferred us. He threw us on his stained mattress and prepared for a most dishonorable night.

Before he sat down, his pants came off in an excited jiffy. The dark marks on his tight briefs...

The TV was already turned on, and he cranked the volume to the max.

And he reached out to us with a steamy look in his eyes --

-- but his attention was grabbed by the television's breaking news, replaying a piece of footage of crazy and bizzare creatures facing off against superheroes and magicians in the streets! What followed was the announcement of a widespread outbreak of transformations!

“Holy shit!” We were startled at his exclaimed curse. “No way... fuck me! Maybe I should put on my Superman costume and join in the fun? ” He removed his shirt and struck a disgustingly heroic pose in his underwear. What hair had abandoned his head had migrated all over his sagging flesh. “Nah, for the sin I'm about to commit, I should be Jesus and suggest you turn the other cheeky.” The deranged lunatic barked a note of laughter and turned his lecherous face toward us. “Cheeky. Get it?”

To provocatively hint what he meant, I saw him reach out at us --

-- and Mary screeched behind the tape as she jerked us both up to escape his perverted violation!

He removed his hand and stared at us from across the bed with a lewd smile. Then his face contorted in an ugly snarl as he viciously shouted: “That was supposed to be funny, you fucking bitch! Laugh!” He grabbed the unlit lamp from the TV stand and held it over his head.

He was going to throw it at us!

Despite the armor, Mary squeezed me so tightly that I squeaked! She was startled by the noise I made, but my face buried down on her shoulder. Carefully with her bound hands, she lifted my face from her shoulder to turned toward the light emitted from the TV to inspect me --

-- and I heard a crash met with a muffled scream!

My big sis had unintentionally shielded me! That wasn't supposed to happen!

I was her knight in shining armor...

Tears welled up in my eyes.

Within that instant, I was filled to the brim with a righteous fury!

“Enough fucking bullshit!” I heard his heavy weight on the squealing mattress springs and felt our unbalanced roll toward him as he pulled Mary over onto her back. I tried to glance behind me --

-- but I heard my big sis whimper. My attention had been drawn up to see Mary's eyes, which had grown wide with terror.

A massive shadow fell over us.

“When I tell you something, you obey. When it is funny, you laugh.” He had to be very close because I could smell his miasmic breath pouring over my shoulder. Then I felt his meaty hand on my shoulder. “What the fuck --”

Mary's muffled cries grew intense as I was pulled straight out of her tight embrace. Without me, my big sis was now entirely vulnerable...

He turned me around violently, shook and rattled me, and stared directly into my face with contemptuous distaste.

I was scared. But that was to be expected with my new role as protector. Courage overcame fear. And my big sister gave me what I required to be brave.

It wasn't because of my armor. Not my sword. Nor the fantastic wonder the magical night had gifted me.

There was someone very precious to me who was more exposed to danger than I was... and he'd hurt her!

In devotion to all the big sisters I always looked up to, I would become her sworn sword!

In a flash, I drew out the Opener and... well I created a contradiction and closed one of his eyes for good! He jerked back before I could do more than rupture the eyeball, however.

As he screamed bloody murder, I felt the rush of air and the impact of being thrown against the wall. I dropped to the floor and remained shockingly motionless.

In all my long years, I'd never felt pain before.

Not when Mary's great-grandmother had sewn a lock of hair from her lost sister into me. And to complete me, she'd embroidered me with her sister's likeness from an enchanted spool of thread. To be shared and loved as I once was when I had a heartbeat. To be handed down the line over the century.

Never as I gradually dried over the weeks after her grandmother's house flooded and I emerged soaked to the stuffing.

Nor when Mary's mother -- our mother -- had unintentionally cut my red-yarn hair at a too-young age to understand I couldn't grow it back.

As a cherished household icon, I was always proud to be the family's Raggedy Ann.

Tonight was the first time I'd ever felt a swell of pride; I couldn't feel more proud for serving my family as its protector.

The night was not over...

Mary looked at me in shock as I stood up and approached her. With the Opener, I cut the bonds around her ankles and freed my big sis's wrists when she knelt down for me to reach.

Meanwhile, that big tub of lard finally shouted a word of disbelief before he figured out the trouble he would be in when Mary escaped. I heard him charge us --

-- and luckily for us, I was in his stampeding path! I turned immediately around and braced myself for impact as I thrust and held the Opener out before me in both hands.

I would slay the foul beast before he ever laid a hand on my precious big sister ever again!

There was a blur of motion above me --

-- the large beast cursed as something crashed over his head as he fell forward face first --

-- and I lanced him fully in the other eye as he dropped.

The dreaded beast was dead.

I tugged at my sword, but I couldn't pull it out... I left it buried in the ugly man and turned to a more important matter, Mary.

She looked down at the dead predator with well placed vindication in her eyes and determination in her stance; she held the lamp up high and ready to fell the horrible beast again. Just in case we were wrong about his demise by our hands.

After a minute of Mary doing no more than holding the lamp high and readied for another head-bashing, we were feeling assured of our safety from the Beast's lack of activity. Not even so much as a twitch from him.

To impart that there was love and security to be had, I raised my arms for my big sis and smiled like I always had and would.

Her gaze shifted from the dead to the wondrous new boy in armor: me. It wasn't fear in her eyes, but disbelief in what she saw.

I kept my open arms raised in welcome, which had prompted a reaction from her to slowly lower the lamp. As she drifted her attention down to where she could set the lamp, her eyes popped open wider at the thin pair of arms she had. And the rest of her magically acquired youth.

“Ann...? Andy...? You're alive!” Mary sobbed.

“I was always alive,” I said, testing out my new voice. “But now I can move and talk.”

Trembling in shock, Mary dropped the lamp. I was frightened that I scared her, but then she slid down to her knees --

-- and when she embraced me, I added: “And hug you back.”

She bawled her eyes out as we held each other.

The terrible encounter was nearly over. Now all we had to do was leave it all behind us and continue on with our lives... and my new role as Sir “Raggedy” Andy.

* * *

MrSimple is the author of many other stories on TGStorytime. Many thanks to Trismegistus Shandy and Rellawing for the revision and editing. Thank you two again! :D

* * *

Saving Face: Epilogue

by Rellawing

Editor's note: This is a sequel to “Saving Face”, which was recently posted on TGStorytime and BigCloset.

* * *

Part 1: Resurfacing

“Susumu!” I sit up, yawning. “Su-su-mu! Oh, gee... get up!” I hear Rui's voice echoing from outside my apartment in a loud embarrassing tone. I rub my eyes and stand up. I push myself up from the wash closet floor, and stretch. It hurts! I cry out as I feel a twinge in my back, and my whole body hurts. I look towards the mirror and chew my lip as I see Reiko-chan's face where I should see mine. I whimper and sniffle, realizing that I lost my composure so much that I ended up crying myself to sleep on the floor of my wash closet. Ah, I'm an idiot... no wonder I'm hurting so much... I can't focus on anything except for that face.

“Susumu, you idiot! Are you turning into a shut-in? Why aren't you awake already? It's already eleven!” I wince as she yells out again.

“Ah... Rui! Wait! I'm awake! I'm sorry, I was just so overwhelmed... I slept in so much...” I look down at myself and realize that I'm still wearing the dress that Ume put me in. As I look down at myself, I realize that something is out of place, but I can't put my finger down on what seems wrong.

“Oh, good! You're awake! Open up, Susumu! I brought some eclairs from my favorite shop, and the present that I promised. You're keeping others waiting too, so don't inconvenience us when we're here to help you, idiot!” she calls out loudly again. What? Others? What is she referring to? Who else was supposed to show up? It was just Rui, right? I'm shocked that she really came like she said she would. I thought she was just saying something nice, but she... she sounds a little like before... did she rethink that kiss last night? I wonder as I bolt out my wash closet door as I suppress an urge to use the wash closet. I don't want to keep her waiting outside. That would be rude when she took the time to come and check on me!

I walk the short distance down my hall to open the front door. I open it and wince as the bright sunlight blinds me for a moment. I rub my eyes again.

“She's still wearing the dress! She must like it alot! I do have impeccable taste.” I hear Ume's voice and I gasp as someone rushes at me and hugs me tightly.

“Oh, Susumu! You are so cute! I hoped you might decide to wear it again this morning. But you really just woke up, didn't you?” As my eyes focus, I see Rui's face and I see something in it that I never expected to see. She has a deep flush in her cheeks and she presses me quickly backwards into my apartment and closes the door with her foot.

“H-hey! You're being really impulsive! I suppose you can't resist attacking cute girls, you crazy yuri.” I hear Natalia-sama's voice now as the door slams. I gape, and as I do, Rui presses her face firmly against mine and seizes my lips. My eyes widen and I squirm as she kisses me thoroughly. I'm so stunned by the kiss at that point that I can't react to it, and I realize that my body is reacting. I feel a familiar tension below my skirt, but the sensation is subtly different. I've woken with morning wood, but as turned on as I am right now, this doesn't feel the same. I feel Rui petting my body heavily and I can't resist wrapping my arms around Rui. I gasp and whimper as her hands run over my body. My chest feels so tight as she touches it and her hands wander down to my butt.

I yelp as she squeezes, pulling the skirt up. At this point, my legs feel like rubber. I pant and gasp; I can't help my own hands wandering over her body. We're interrupted by the door slamming open. Rui breaks the kiss and draws back with a deep flush in her cheeks. A trickle of something leaks down one leg. I stare at her and towards the door where Ume and Natalia-sama are walking in and taking off their shoes.

“It's not classy to go running into someone's apartment with your shoes on, Rui!” Natalia-sama criticizes her. Rui flushes a little more and laughs ruefully.

“I'm so sorry, Susumu... I'm such a poor guest...” she laments.

“No... no way...” I lean heavily back against the wall behind me.

“Oh, my... such a virgin.” Ume laughs aloud. “It's adorable.” She winks at me.

“Perhaps you shouldn't tease Susumu.” Natalia-sama looks in my direction with a small chuckle. “You should consider going into your wash closet. You're extremely mussed. Why don't you get cleaned up, and come see us? We'll wait in your apartment. I'll prepare tea for us.” She smiles at me. Natalia-sama is so classy... I can't believe what an amazing lady she is...

“That might be a good idea. You might want to ready yourself for what you'll find.” Ume giggles as she looks to me.

I look at her blankly and Rui laughs aloud. “If you need any help, do please speak up.” She winks; the three walk onwards up the narrow hallway and I hear Natalia-sama gasp.

“It's spartan... and kind of messy,” Natalia-sama comments.

“Definitely a bachelor's place... but not as tidy as you might expect,” Ume adds.

“Susumu is dealing with some major loss at the moment. Don't expect perfection when you're coping with the death of a friend,” Rui points out, sounding sad.

“You're absolutely right. That's why I'm going to help! I'll make the tea as well.” I listen blankly for a moment, hearing bustling noises. I blush and shake my head, then walk into the wash closet. I look at my reflection again, distracted. There is something wrong about my reflection, still... but what could it be?

I feel really moist below and sigh softly. I have to sit down on the toilet. Maybe I shouldn't have ignored it. Was I starting to pee down my leg in front of them? I think, horrified at the situation.

I look at my toilet with its bidet installed. I lift the seat and chew my lip. The voluminous dress skirt I wear is far too poofy. I can't imagine sitting on that cramped toilet with it bunched around me. I sigh and struggle as I try to pull it off over my head. The chest is still tight and it's tricky to get it up over my head. I squirm and dance as the need to empty my bladder overtakes me. I drop the nice dress on the floor when it's off and plop down onto the toilet. I look down as I relax my lower muscles, already feeling so much better. I frown, though, as something dawns on me. My hips stick out further to either side than they usually do.

Something else occurs to me, and I shriek. After a second, I hear feet slapping against my hallway and the wash closet door is wrenched loudly open. I turn to look at Rui with a concerned expression. She stares at me for a long moment and giggles for a long moment that makes me feel very uncomfortable. “Are you alright, Susumu-chan? I'm guessing you didn't take what you've discovered very well?” Rui asks.

“Stop lusting after her, Rui,” Natalia-sama calls up the hallway. “Is she alright?” she asks.

I look down at myself and chew my lip. “B-breasts! How? Why do I have breasts?” I yelp out.

“We don't know how, or why, but it has something to do with magic. My compass went insane this morning, just over an hour ago. It nearly burned a hole through my pocket. It wasn't sure what direction to point, but it tended to point east most. I think we're on the edge of it, but the yokai went wild, I hear. More importantly, people who slept in their costumes or wore them again are stuck with the look they had.” Rui laughs.

“The costumes? What they wear? Why would this happen after what happened with the noh face last night?” I gape, staring down at myself. I realize that I feel wet down below, more than before. I don't dare feel myself down there... I mewl privately.

“Yes, the costumes. I looked into it on my phone this morning after my compass went nuts, and Twits, Facebooks, Feeds, YouTube postings are through the roof! Maybe this will make you feel happier?” Rui giggles and pulls out her phone as she walks into my small wash closet, while I'm sitting on the toilet naked. I gape at her and after a moment it occurs to me that I should probably cover myself decently. Rui grins as she flips through pages on her phone, then turns the screen towards me.

She shows me a picture of a mascot I've seen wandering around Shibuya. A swirly pink poo with a face that seems reminiscent of a dog's. “That's the Hachiko mascot... what were they thinking when they invented that?” I gape.

“Yes, you're right. Now think about this poor mascot, who is stuck in this form for the rest of their life. Doesn't that put things into perspective, Susumu?” She shakes her head. “You were going to be a noh face, but I don't think that compares much with this poor person's plight.” I gape at her in response. “If you hadn't taken off the makeup and removed the teeth, you might have ended up as a vampire of sorts, like so many people in America. I'm sure Ume-chan would have been delighted to find you one this morning,” Rui says with a laugh.

“A vampire? Or looking like something like that poor mascot... Stuck forever looking like that? Real? Is it squishy now? Does it smell horrible?” I ask, my eyes wide.

“I don't know. It... they haven't mentioned it in any of their crazed Twits. But think of it, Susumu. In your case, you were wearing a cute dress this morning, and you have a lovely girls face. It's like a complete costume. You could have looked like one of those mascots or cosplayers, but now you're a lovely girl. It could be a LOT worse, I think.” Rui giggles.

“You're right.” I chew my lip, overcome with my mixed feelings of relief, but also a welling overwhelming surge of compassion for the less fortunate. I was very nearly a yokai myself! Poor them! Why did they have to go through something like this too? I start crying and sniffling.

“Oh no... is it really that bad?” Rui impulsively rushes the last distance to me and embraces me. I sob and cry. “Oh no... please don't cry so hard... I'm so sorry you're so miserable about it. I suppose some guys might think about being a girl as a demotion or something. I didn't think you were like that, Susumu!”

I sniffle and look to her face. “No, that's not it. I don't mind being a girl. It's better than what they have to deal with. I'm crying for them.” I chew my lip.

“Oh! That's too adorable!” Ume chimes in from the hallway outside.

“Oh, it is!” Natalia-sama adds, in a shamed tone. “Oh, we're not eavesdropping... it echoes down the hallway...”

“You're way too cute!” Rui enthuses as she squeezes me even tighter. I gasp and blink.

“So, maybe it would be nice to let Susumu finish up? You're being really touchy with her. Are you really in that kind of a relationship already?” Natalia-sama asks.

“Well, I don't see why we can't be. She's so beautiful, and I think she likes me! Her nipples are standing straight out.” Rui laughs. I shriek and look down at my... my breasts... and she's right. They are standing straight out!

“D-don't misunderstand the situation... it's chilly this morning...” I stammer.

“Yeah... sure. The way you kissed me last night and just now say I'm not misunderstanding anything.” Rui giggles and lets me go finally with a wink. I watch her walk out with a sassy sway. She looks over her shoulder and grins. “So we'll bring in our present to you. It's mostly from Natalia-sama, I was sure she'd be on board for it. It was my plan for you to move on with your life, and that still applies to your current situation.” Rui states as she walks around the corner up the hallway. I gasp, wrap a small length of tissue around my hand, and reach down between my legs to clean myself, recognizing this will be necessary from now on.

I feel the tissue dampen. I drop it into the bowl and activate the bidet. I squeak as the sensation feels different, perhaps even a little more intimate. I deactivate the water spray and the blow dryer starts. I blink, wrapping my arms tightly around my chest. Rui sneaks around the corner again and I yelp when I spy her. She stands in front of me holding an outfit. A breezy looking sundress in pastel colors.

I stare at it. “What did it cost? I haven't made a paycheck in a while; I can't afford that, let alone my rent!”

“It's a gift from us, idiot.” Rui grins. “Put it on. I think we'll need to go shopping, but that'll wait. It's not like we can afford to give you a new wardrobe or anything, but Natalia-sama can help a little more.” Rui looks at me. “But more importantly, if you want to keep your job, I think we'd best see to getting you a more appropriate suit for your new form, specifically. With that beauty, of course you can move on with your life! It's a much better situation than just having a pretty face.” She grins.

“I'll leave it here, and if you need help, let us know!” She leaves the dress on the sink and holds up a pair of panties before setting them down. “We didn't expect that you would need a bra... so we'll have to address that soon.” Rui excuses herself and closes the door behind her.

I finally stand up, uncovering myself, I eye the door, wondering if she'll barge in again, but I look at the cute panties and the beautiful dress as my nose wrinkles. I sigh and shake my head. Is that mascot going to be walking around naked for their life? Will they get special clothes tailored? I muse as I lower the panties and step into them. I chew my lip, feeling a brief surge of shame, as though I'm doing something perverted. I look down at my crotch and reassure myself that I am not a man anymore, clearly. How can it be? This is who I am now. I sigh. I pull the dress over my head and settle it on my shoulders and over my hips and look at myself in the mirror again.

I sigh softly, covering my face. I look just like Reiko-chan now, and if any of her family see me looking like this, they'll think I'm her! My hair looks just like hers now, its longer and looks so much more healthy than mine. Everything else looks like her in those pictures she sent me months ago. I feel tears dripping down my cheeks as I open the door as I step out from the wash closet.

I walk into my room, sniffling again. Rui and Ume gasp when they see me and bolt to their feet. Natalia-sama pours a cup of tea for me as the two younger girls dash forward to throw their arms around me.

“What's wrong? Thinking about the mascots?” Rui asks as she squeezes me.

“I think they're calling themselves the neo-yokai. They think they're monsters. I suppose since they aren't yokai, that label might work for them,” Natalia-sama chips in, and stands calmly as she walks over to me holding a cup of tea for me. She smiles warmly in a way that bathes my soul with light.

“Ah, no... I just realized that I look just like my late friend. That magic turned me into a clone of her, except for my mind,” I explain to them quietly.

“Oh, my...” Natalia-sama murmurs and gently pats my head in a manner that is reminiscent of the way I saw her tousle Rui's hair in her shop yesterday.

“That's... that would make sense...” Rui sighs softly. “It could be worse, though... she was a real beauty for what it's worth.”

“She really was. It's like she gets a chance to live again,” Ume adds to the conversation. “It's a shame you weren't wearing the fangs this morning.” Ume winks.

“We should sit. I brought the tea, and I hope you enjoy it, Susumu-chan.” Natalia-sama gestures and the two step away from their long embrace. I take a seat at my sitting table, and I notice that the laptop has been set safely off to the side. I smile at Natalia-sama as she sets the cup before me.

“Oh, but you shouldn't! I'm the host!” I protest.

“No, it's fine, Susumu-chan. You relax and sit,” she murmurs softly.

“Th-thank you, Natalia-sama...” I murmur, at a loss for what else to say. I try the tea, lifting the cup tenderly. The cup is one of mine. I have a set of tea cups; they aren't elegant, but I did plan for visits eventually, if I managed to make friends. Well, a typical guy wouldn't buy elegant tea cups, would he? I think wryly.

Natalia-sama hands me a small paper plate with an eclair on it. I see the other girls have been nibbling at theirs. I take a bite, and it goes so well with the tea, I'm flummoxed. Amazing!

“So what will you do now Susumu? You look like her, you said,” Ume says around her cup.

“Of course, Susumu will move on with her life,” Rui interjects, ”and I'll be right here for you every step along the way. You're a very important customer, not to mention you have a nigh-endless supply of kisses to pay me for my services.” She winks at me. I blush redly, thinking about more kisses like the the one today particularly. If she kisses me like that too many more times I might lose control... and I think she...

Part 2: Defaced

I gasp aloud as Rui shows me an article on her phone. I stare at her laughing aloud, as I jump up and down. She eyes me with a small grin.

I read the article, and the news is absolutely amazing. I finish reading the article quickly and laugh, delighted.

“You seem so happy, Susumu-chan...” Rui observes, shaking her head. I can see the edge of some private misery in her eyes.

I frown for a moment, recognizing that. I can't help worrying for Rui; I hope she's alright. “You look like you're not especially happy. Isn't it amazing news? I mean, we already knew that yokai exist, but naturally magic has to exist in the world. It's the only thing that explains what happened to me, on both counts! Isn't it true, Rui-chan?” I muse.

“You're right, Susumu-chan... don't forget my compass. You should have suspected that magic is real after having witnessed its abilities,” she gently chastises me, avoiding my main question. “Why are you so happy to see this news, Susumu?” she presses her own question.

I sigh and smile. “Well, obviously, there are many benefits. I mean, from what I understand from this article, these witches are offering to change back the neo-yokai who don't like their new bodies! They say it will take a long time since they can't safely change very many people at once, but...”

“You never wanted to be a yokai. You don't identify as a neo-yokai, right? There's nothing about you that could possibly warrant that!” She looks sadly at me. “Even so, if you're unhappy, and...” She reaches out and touches my cheek gently, gazing into my eyes. “I mean, I know that you're working and you're feeling awkward about things now, working as a beautiful girl suddenly. It's kind that your employers accepted your story and allowed you to continue working for them. Many corporations have little or no soul. But I understand there are a few neo-yokai that have kept their jobs, in particular the mascot neo-yokai. Well, the point is this, if you're unhappy, we can go there, to Kansas City.” She smiles sadly.

I look at her and I am unable to resist an urge to embrace her tightly, snuggling my face into the crook of her neck against her soft shoulder. I snuggle it and sigh, taking in her wonderful scent. She pats my back and hugs me so tightly. It feels so wonderful.

“So you want to go, then Susumu-chan? I will get you on their waiting list,” she softly murmurs, stroking my head. “It will take time; you'll have to let the people who are suffering worse go first, but --” I sit up as I look into her eyes and impulsively kiss her. She stiffens slightly and purrs softly. She kisses me back passionately, and I can feel tension still in her, but her hands gently stroke my back as she squeezes and kisses me. After a magical moment, we lean away from each other to gaze into each other's eyes, and as she opens her mouth to speak, I lift my hand to place a finger softly over her lips.

Part 3: Facsimile

Rui kisses me passionately and presses me down on my bed. She presses her tongue into my mouth and I gasp as she explores it. I yelp and mewl as she drives me crazy with her kisses and the way she has of touching my new body. I tingle from head to toes and the shocks of pleasure that surge through me wash away all coherent thought from my mind.

Suddenly, the door opens loudly and I hear a laugh and a gasp.

“They're at it again!” a female voice exclaims. Rui laughs and sits up, blushing. She looks at me with a wink, and I sit up, mussed and out of countenance.

I adjust the skirt I'm wearing that Rui pushed up in her petting. I chew my lip. “Oh, Mom! I'm so sorry! I'm sorry if you don't approve,” I murmur.

“It makes Reiko-chan happy. Really happy.” Rui winks at me. I look to Rui as I blush and laugh, clapping my hands to my flaming cheeks. Oh, Kami... it really does... Rui-chan is so amazing. I take a deep breath.

Reiko's mother smiles warmly. “I'm happy that Reiko-chan is happy now. I can't believe she would fake her death. Thinking she was miserable made us wonder just why she would want to do it... don't you ever pull a stunt like that again, Reiko!” she chastises me. “Not to mention falling into trouble and getting hit so hard you lost so many memories... it's a tragedy, but we're so happy you're home, Reiko-chan.” Reiko-chan's mother sighs in relief, not for the first time since I showed up. It was Rui-chan's idea when I suggested that they would see me someday, somewhere, and I told her how I felt so guilty over having her face that I owed her family some kind of relief.

Rui explained to them how she'd rescued me in an alleyway after I'd been beaten, looked after me and nursed me back to health, which explained neatly why Reiko-chan hadn't resurfaced sooner. She went on to explain that she'd investigated the situation, and did not find the culprit but did find that Reiko-chan's purse was found on the body of the person who'd cast herself from the roof of an office building. I had apparently been mugged violently, or so she had conjectured. The story seems to hold water. I still feel incredibly guilty for passing myself off as my childhood friend, but the relief and happiness that I see in their eyes every day makes it worth it.

“I'm happy to be home too, Mom... I'm sorry I'm a little different, but I love you and Dad. I'll be a good daughter. I swear it. I'll take care of you when you grow old. I love you.” For Reiko-chan, and for me.

“We love you too, Reiko-chan! You're such a wonderful daughter. Don't worry about it. If you need anything, let us know. We know your life may take you away from us again someday soon, but we're so happy to have you back; take your time to get your feet back under you!” Reiko-chan's mom smiles warmly, and it melts my heart.

“Oh you're such a good girl, Reiko-chan. I love you!” Rui throws her arms around me. I gasp, blush, giggle, and embrace her right back.

* * *

Rellawing is an author who writes heartwarming yuri stories. She's positive and passionate about writing, working to improve to be published someday!

* * *

One Night as the Queen

by MrSimple

* * *

When did it start? Dunno. I supposed a long time ago. Maybe way back in school?

On the high or low borders of my vision, I'd experienced bright flashes. Instantly there and gone, and I would wonder if I had imagined it. The years rolled by and they became more frequent.

By then, I hadn't given it a thought. I ignored stuff like that. There was no pain or impairment, and nobody ever mentioned anything odd about me. Maybe they ignored me too if I was a regular oddball to them?

...Never thought I was odd. I looked funny, but what giant didn't?

The flashes would just come and go. These were not everyday occurrences. Maybe monthly? Weekly?

That was what happened when I considered my illness normal. In fact, I didn't know I was sick.

Since I was a kid, I was dying and no one ever realized it -- and I included myself in that lot.

How had I found out? By accident.

I was a really tall guy! Nearly seven foot with a weight close to three hundred, I was a genuine giant. But I was tall, not big. That triple-digit weight sounded heavy, but pack that weight vertically and the pudge doesn't stand out nearly as much as it would've on someone normal sized.

Anyways, I'd worked on machinery. I sometimes have to fit in tight spaces to stretch and flatten myself for certain out-of-reach parts. A very tight and uncomfortable squeeze.

Every day, I'd leave with lined impressions in my skin from how hard I was laying or wedging myself into steely cases, pulling densely plated gears or wheels until they turned, gripping pistons and plungers before they moved again, and all manner of other machinery I was tasked to perform maintenance on.

One day, I nearly got my head crushed because some asshole machine operator thought he'd come in early and run the damn hardline. All it took was for him to use a pair of snips and cut off my lockout tag.

He hit the big red E-stop button when I screamed.

That day was a curse and blessing.

On the one hand, a very happy lawyer handed me a very nice paycheck, and an awesome disability was electronically deposited in my account on a bi-weekly basis.

On the other hand... what other hand? I only have one now and that makes my living difficult.

But that's getting ahead when I should've focused on what was wrong with my head.

Back then, I had other injuries that required looking at. Other than the ground meat hanging off my wrist, I was evaluated on how severe the rest of my booboos were. So one of the tests the doctors conducted was on priority number one: my head.

They honestly reminded me of modern art images, but they were of the inside of my head! I had to wonder if stuff like that could make a quick buck?

On another note, apparently there had been something steadily growing over the years in the back of my thick skull. And it was also apparent that the mass was inside of something very squishy and delicate. Someplace I never wanted anybody to be touching.

When I saw it, I heard an imaginary Arnold Schwarzenegger tell me his famous line from Kindergarten Cop: ”It's not a Toomah!” Wishful thinking... instead, I had a few doctors and specialists explain the prognosis to me and what they could do about it.

So how long did I have left to live? That made me laugh because no one had any fucking idea. They gave me a range, but the width of that scope was fluctuating down around a year or up to double my age... incredible guesses.

Nowadays, I tried to enjoy life however I could, but without a whole lot of wandering around due to my driving privileges being revoked. On the one hand, my driving had become impaired. On the other, now being aware that I could clonk out at any moment while on the road scared the shit out of me. Even if it was by accident, I didn't want to be responsible for ruining someone's life.

No more driving for me.

Unless someone was right underneath me if I fell, walking was simple and safe. So I did a lot more of that.

Now onto something that was a bit odd for most folk. Back when I was a whole man, I was interested in visiting conventions and doing costume roleplay. These costumes weren't something I could purchase from a store or order online. They were handmade.

Crafting the costumes I wore was a way to show off my enjoyable work. My size caused a variety of characters to really stand out.

But I only won a trophy on one costume.

Conventions weren't going to be a possibility for me. At least, not anymore as they distanced themselves from my location. Could anyone imagine lugging around my monstrously great costumes to those centers?

That meant I should do something with my costumes. Selling them would be a nice bet. I could earn some cash. What would I have done with the money?

Likely travel. If I couldn't do any countryside driving, then I'd go on a worldwide trip as a tourist! That'd be a grand way for me to get out of the house.

In the meantime, I had sold a good portion of my handmade costumes. I had sentimental value in a few, but not enough for me to irrationally keep and never use.

Except for my gorgeously prized possession. I had something in mind for that majestic beauty...

Halloween Day!

I stood and stared at my costume. Even in pieces, I gave each part a creative appreciation for how they would fit back together. These were graceful and stunning. A bit perverse too, but not because of anything I had done. A beautiful aesthetic, but weirdly intentional from the source material and from the original designer.

In jest, I respectfully bowed to her majesty.

It had been awhile since I'd excitedly pranced around in that thing. In the condition I was in, I had to wonder if I had what it took anymore to carry it, let alone wear it. I'd have to so single-handedly...

I couldn't. Not in complete uniform. But in parts, I'd pull off one last hurrah for the Queen.

The Queen? I'd imagine a lot of folk would be questioning me on that one. Thing was, I had in my hand the biggest and baddest Momma to ever rock the galaxy. At least, I had her crested head under my arm.

I'd have to take the head crest outside, then the bottom half of the head. The torso would come around the front of the house in three parts: shoulders with two dominant arms, the bust with secondary shorter arms, and the waist with the spine. There were four supportive rods that the bust and then torso would slip onto the waist. The spine connected the three after each segmented piece was fitted.

But I'd have to slip in first, which was easy. The hard part was lifting the pieces up over my head and carefully dropping them on. And I haven't told you about the lower half of my costume!

To quote a very famous man, John Wayne, I said to myself: “Life is tough. Even tougher when you're stupid.”

I needed help...

When I paid my friendly neighbor a visit, we had our pleasant greetings, informal gossip, and then got down to business. I showed the neighborly man what we were dealing with and he choked.

“You're gonna traumatize the kids!” I had to laugh at his observation.

“I want to give them something to remember.” And I did too. With no children of my own, I wanted some legacy to leave behind.

After awhile, we noticed the sky wasn't as brightly blue as it once was. And the shadowed outline of the mountains was creeping up on the big yellow sun.

A very infamous concept crossed my mind, but it was spoken in so many ways that there was no one way on how to say it. To be safe, we slowed down, but hurried the Hell up to get the job done.

With a little time to spare, he congratulated me on getting the suit on, but in a wary manner. “You'd never catch me in one of those. Must be heavy as the mountains and hot as Hell.”

He was right, but I had an idea how to solve those two issues.

The Queen had four arms. I had two, and only one was going to be working. That meant we could strap a pair of arms up, the dominant ones, and have them hung up. When he'd strung them up, the Queen would be in a pose that suggested she was ready to pounce on someone.

I never saw what he tied the arms up onto, but for the time being, they held.

He suggested that I sit in a chair. I wasn't sure how the suit and chair would fit together, but he pointed out that the kids wouldn't see past the doorway. So anything beyond the door would be for comfort. I still wore the leg pieces and had the tail, otherwise the spinal column wouldn't keep the full torso attached with the waist. The shoulders and bust would've rode up the rods, which could've caused damage to the four supports.

So I sat and used the back of my chair to support the long tail.

As for the couple of hours directly under the porchlight, also being a roasted nut in the suit, we had an idea. To keep a steady airflow, he connected a simple extension: a vent. He provided the vent from his garage -- a suped up dryer, I supposed -- and got the long connection laid and aimed at the back of the chair, but rigidly aligned beneath the tail. My tail directly pointed the vent away from the front door to the kitchen window behind me.

No need for air conditioning; the Autumn breeze would be pleasantly cool enough for my sorry ass.

Now the problem with those two improvisations was I would require my neighbor's help again to get out. Once our neighborhood's Halloween festivities concluded, he'd agreed to come back around and get me out of my alien prison.

I had been about to let him go, but I realized I'd forgotten one of the most important props to the whole display: the bait. Why would any kid come here if there wasn't some treat?

So we had a quick debate on what to do and he offered me an awesome idea. Since my theme was an Alien Queen, he'd provide an egg. One wicker laundry basket, a bit of shiny Saran wrap, and some more of that wrap to cradle the candy; we'd produced a sweet egg!

After I told him where the candy was and he'd positioned the egg before me, he'd flick on the lights and my back was bathed in their glow. A very foreboding shadow fell over my egg.

He'd returned to his house and prepared his own fashion of trick-or-treating by turning his own porchlight on. Pretty normal.

My night was about to be far from normal...

Halloween Night!

For a little while, I was worried no one would show up.

But then, the first kids arrived.

They were considerate how they wandered up to me. These munchkins weren't toddlers, but still small compared to me. Maybe just barely teens? Anyways, they walked up my driveway and turned to keep on the stone walkway between my garden and lawn. Very considerate where they stepped.

Their eyes were on the Queen, but technically on me. Then they directed their attention to the egg. My secondary alien arms were holding the shiny top of the egg protectively, but really it was to hold the Saran wrap down.

As the group of kids inched closer, I hissed. The sound echoed inside of crested head above me.

The brave kids reached for the candy --

-- and I pushed out the secondary pair of chompers from the Queen's mouth over their heads.

A simple rod in the bottom half of the head with a handmade puppet on the end. It didn't chomp, but the appearance was menacing. All I had to do was tilt the front of the crested head down slightly for the puppet to slip out. Yarn was tied to an eyehole at the very end of the rod and kept it from falling out of the Queen's mouth.

A tilt back, and the Queen would slurp her bitey tongue back in. A sudden jarring stop told me something: the back of the crest had hit the door frame... I'd have to be careful about that.

Back to the kids.

They jumped and at least one of the kids made a break for it back to the safety of the sidewalk. I couldn't keep myself from laughing at the sight. Unfortunately for the other kids, my laughter boomed rather than be muffled inside of the suit.

They had their quick pickings of candy and ran!

The next couple of hours was a bit of the same. Only a few kids laughed back at my jumpscare. We chatted some and they went on to the next house.

I had fun.

Then something very strange and scary went through me.

My vision flashed, blinded me, and changed significantly in an instant. At that time, I was worried my condition had worsened or I'd experienced a seizure and was waking up from it.

I didn't move. The fear of what had happened was overpowered by what could be the cause. If I was about to croak, I didn't want it to be in front of kids!

As if my thoughts had summoned them, teenage kids turned to my house, but they stood on the sidewalk. They appeared confused and a little frightened?

Had they already been to my house and seen or heard something while I was out? Had I made noises while having that epileptic episode?

I watched and tried to listen, but it wasn't easy to pick up their voices from my distance across the lawn. But we all heard the screams.

All the kids turned to face the direction of the screaming, but somehow I didn't have to turn to see. Oddly enough, I could see in every direction except two: directly down and behind me.

We could hear the screaming, but not exactly see what was causing -- them? More screams, shouts, and a lot of yelling. Then came the alarmingly familiar sirens...

An incredible disorientation came over me when I tried to wave at the kids. It was like I had fumbled at catching an imaginary ball! I gave it another go and felt a sense of vertigo.

So I figured I'd actually had a seizure and maybe my brain had done something screwy with my once finely tuned motor skills. First thing was first, to test what I could do.

A simple twitch of my index finger confused me. The sense of that finger curling wasn't right. I focused on it and tried again. That time, I found out what was the problem. My attempt to curl just one finger wasn't possible. Curling one wasn't, but I could grip my fingers into a fist.

Something snapped around the doorway when I pulled my arm down to inspect it. I hadn't noticed what had broken, but I supposed that meant it wasn't something important.

My attention shifted down to my arm... arms?

The Queen's dominant and secondary arms had both come down in front of me. I had my arm slipped inside of the secondary, but the dominant one shouldn't have been capable of moving with my movements. Maybe if I had kept the rods bridged between the two, but I'd removed them since I had no need to manipulate both sets.

I reached my secondary arm up -- the one I had thought my arm was still inside -- and grabbed the dominant arm.

I felt that. The grip and grab.

My mind was buzzed with a terrible sensation as I tried moving my arms separately. Like how everything functioned was being rewritten, rewired, reprogrammed... whatever you wanna call it.

Extra limbs!? I had another pair of arms!?

That realization drove me to experiment with my maimed limb.

I could feel my fingers. My hand... make that hands. That was so weird, but I wasn't complaining about it.

With a tug, the other dominant arm snapped the binding my neighbor had put on. And then I stretched out all four arms to only see and inspect them in front of me. I turned my palms up, made fists, and swung a punch -- or two. I'd have to work on the control of four limbs rather than the movement of two arms as if they were one.

I had no idea what had happened, but I liked it.

Then I tried to sit up. Of course, the crest of the Queen's head hit the doorway... except it felt like I had hit the back of my head against a wall?

Turning a little, I felt the door's frame bite into my waist and hips. I felt that if I could wiggle, the attachments from the spine could come undone and I'd squirm my way out of the torso. But that wasn't the case for a couple of reasons.

For one, the chair was beneath me. If I kicked it out, then I'd collapse under the weight. Especially now that the dominant arms weren't -- well, I somehow had control over them. That wasn't an issue anymore!

The second problem was the vent. When I tried to wiggle, the vent felt as if it had gotten in the way. Like the chair or tail was somehow tangled around it?

...If I could move the dominant arms and feel the crest when it hit, I supposed the tail could be manipulated too? Had I become the Queen?

For now, I let that thought go and prioritized the tail. If it could move, then I could perhaps be one step closer to freedom.

I focused on my posterior. That was very damn strange, but didn't do the job I wanted. Instead, I felt my legs strain under my weight when I tried to lift my ass up.

Before, when I had wiggled, it had felt as if the attachments to my spine could come undone. I gave that a shot and felt my tail move. That was very interesting to feel, but a bit sickening too as the attachments weren't where I thought.

The tail's movement made a noise. Like I had ripped something. Then a squelched pop later, my tail flung up and I heard it smack off of the ceiling. And a crash, after the ceiling fan broke and dropped with my tail back to the floor.

The back of my chair was a ruin, but I felt like my tail's freedom had given me more wiggle room. I didn't feel as stuck to the floor anymore.

But I was stuck in the doorway. It didn't matter what way I turned my hips, pushed back against the door's frame, or pulled back in -- I was stuck.

With a heavy sigh -- which sounded real damn weird -- I gave up on getting out. I focused my attention instead on those kids once more.

While I wasn't paying attention, they'd stopped to watch me flop around in vain for freedom! I was thankful they'd stuck around, but I felt ashamed of my feeble display. If I was correct, I was an all powerful and mighty Alien Queen, but with a royal ass firmly stuck on the throne.

First thing I had done was give the kids a friendly wave -- or two. One of the group of kids bravely stepped forward and came running up to me.

He, or she, had a Jack-O-Lantern for a head, but spoke with its carved tooth mouth insync with the voice. “You okay? Did your -- ah, the costume, you know...?” Jack crossed a pair of fingers and implied a merge or some kind of transformation from that gesture.

Since I hadn't tested my voice yet, I only nodded. Who knew if I could speak, but I was frightened of what would shoot out of my mouth if I tried.

Jack told me the same thing happened to the rest of the group and apparently it wasn't an isolated occurrence. One of the kids had a cell on hand. Almost all costume goers had transformed to a degree and nearly the whole world was going bonkers.

When Jack waved the rest of his crew over, I was shown what the one kid's cell could explain. Not much, but at least we knew we weren't alone.

“Ah, yeah... anything we can get you?” Jack, and everyone else, took note of my predicament.

There was someone who could help me, but I didn't want to speak. So I pointed at my neighbor's house.

A rabbit wearing a hypnotic, swirling blend of colors hopped away to alert the neighbor of my situation. Soon enough, my neighbor had arrived and was getting the gist of what had happened from the kids -- and the cellphone helped support our claims.

The kids had made a call -- I assumed their parents -- and waited by the street to be picked up.

Meanwhile, my neighbor had gone around back to figure out how to get me out. I waited in silence before I heard him swear something fierce behind me.

When he came back, he told me about the destruction my tail had caused and the icky mess that used to be his laundry vent. My guess was the tail had smashed it and whatever I could reach had smeared over the tubular chute.

In my current scenario, I was informed the only way out would be to break the door frame. That wasn't an appealing plan. So we called and waited for authorities to arrive.

And waited... it was obvious the world was turned upside down and the emergency responders were overwhelmed with all manner of chaos tonight.

Some hours later, my neighbor showed me an interesting tidbit on his cell's headlined media. All of the transformed would revert back to normal come the morning. We just needed to keep whatever our costume had come with on. And not become pregnant.

Both of those sounded easy to me. Nothing could come off of me and I wasn't capable of becoming pregnant. Alien Queens laid parasitic eggs that did the whole impregnating shabang.

Almost all night had gone by before a response team arrived. With the new information, they recommended I rest and wait until the morning instead of breaking my house apart. That was sound advice and I had no reason not to take it.

Then the sun rose its shiny yellow face up in the sky and basked me in a welcoming warmth. Despite how happy I was to have my full arm back -- and perhaps nothing wrong with my head -- I eagerly awaited the end of my one night as the Queen.

And waited...

When the dawn had almost passed, I panicked. What if those magicians or whatever were wrong? What if a costume that had nothing to take off was by default a permanent transformation?

Then I remembered something my neighbor told me. The vent was a icky mess...

I was a Queen that laid eggs.

I had an ovipositor... which I'd broken free from when I lashed my tail around and off the egg layer.

Looked like I'd be stuck for awhile...

* * *

Me and Marilyn


- a Debbie Delaney Story
another tiny story by Bobbie C

me-and-marilyn-small.png

A note to the reader: to have some background about Debbie Delaney
and Dr. Lewis Tully's Flagstaff University team, feel free to read the
previous Debbie Delaney stories called “A Ghost At The Movies,” “My Night
At The Cemetery” and “Someone's In The Library” -- you can find them
in the previous TG Mixed Tape anthologies. -- Bobbie C

5:45PM CST / 6:45 EST

I could have been doing something better tonight, especially in New York City, but here I was standing around the entrance of a big fancy ballroom, waiting for my two friends. If our boss hadn't said it was mandatory, I wouldn't have come.

I was dressed as Marilyn Monroe, complete with the bright red lipstick, overdone lashes and the permed bright-blond hair, and I was wearing a duplicate of the dress she wore in The Seven Year Itch. It was a Halloween costume ball, after all, I thought, and if I had to wear a costume... Yeah, yeah, I know -- it's a bit of wishful thinking, but I can dream can't I? For a transgender girl, Marilyn was more than just an icon.

“Now where the heck were my guys!” I said as I took pictures. I was the photographer, after all. “It's almost seven PM!”

Looking at the end of the hallway, I finally saw Pete and Simone come out of the elevator. Thank God!

Pete was the photography technician that was assigned to me, and Simone was the department's EA. I called them up earlier in the week and roped them into going with me to this shindig. I won't be the only one wearing a costume!

“Thank God you're here!” I said. “The director's about to start the program.”

I looked them up and down. Pete was wearing leather pants, boots and a leather jacket with spikes on the shoulders, and a big chain wrapped around his shoulders. As for Simone, she was wearing a black halter top, black jeans, a silver ankh on a chain around her neck, and a henna tattoo of the Eye of Horus around her right eye. Over it all, she had a gray-brown hooded robe with the hood thrown back.

“Who are you guys supposed to be?” I asked.

“I'm Teleute,” Simone smiled, “the Angel of Death from Sandman.”

“How about you, Pete?”

“I'm the Ghost Rider! Cool, huh?”

“Yes, you are,” I said impatiently. “Now, let's go and get this over with already!”

6:05PM CST / 7:05PM EST

I dropped my little Canon Powershot into my clutch -- the one with Dr. Tully's lens attached. Also in my clutch was my wallet, a tube of lipstick, a comb, some other little things, plus my wayfarer sunglasses with the experimental lenses, also from the Doc.

Dutifully, I turned off my phone's ringer. Everyone knows that at formal fund-raising occasions like this, one's supposed to turn off her phone, just like at the movies. Otherwise, you might, gasp! Interrupt some dowager as she made her point to some social-climbing mid-level politician.

I looked around and only half of the people were in costume. Dammit! It wasn't mandatory!

Most of those in costume hadn't put in much effort into their outfits, though -- policemen, firefighters, construction workers, punk-rock guitar players and that kind of costume. For the girls, there was the slutty nurse, the Arabian princess, the cheerleader, Hermione from Harry Potter and a lot of ho-hum outfits. In my own humble opinion, I think I looked far better than most of them.

9:25PM CST / 10:25PM EST

To me, this was the lamest of all cocktail parties ever, but you do what you need to do. Otherwise, I might lose my standing as staff photographer.

It had been more than three hours already, but somehow, I didn't feel too tired. A while ago, I felt something weird -- my breast implants suddenly felt different and the little twinges I still felt from time to time because of my surgery sort of disappeared. I also felt, I don't know, looser, you know, down there, and my panties felt fuller behind me. I was glad I'd worn the full 60's-style panties. And, I don't know, I felt gigglier and more flirty. I thought I could last a couple more hours, especially with all this attention from everyone.

Anyway, I ignored the weirdness of it, and we continued standing around drinking watered-down drinks and eating little cubes of ham, pretending they were fancy canapés. I made the expected polite hi's and hellos to the directors and the other bosses.

I sure wished that guy in the werewolf costume would stop bothering people with his leering and wolf-whistling and slobbering. Clearly, the guy in the Dracula costume was getting fed up with him, as well.

I decided to get another glass of champagne.

10:15PM CST / 11:15PM EST

There were a few interesting costumes, though, and after hours of milling around and chatting, we all picked out our favorites for the best-in-costume contest. And, surprisingly, Pete, Simone and I were in the top twenty.

The twenty of us found ourselves ushered on stage as the director, in a lame Emperor Napoleon costume, stood there saying all the expected boring blah-blahs, and thanking everyone for the generous donations and contributions that the foundation had been receiving all year round, and toasting everyone.

He did an excellent French accent, though.

10:45PM CST / 11:45PM EST

As we listened to the director drone on in his weird mish-mash of English and French for more than thirty minutes, I looked through the room. I changed my opinion. Most of the people in costume had actually done a good job with their outfits, after all. Very realistic!

“Everyone looks so cute!” I said to Pete.

He looked at me in a funny way. “I guess,” he said.

“You're no fun!” I said, and leaned to my right. “Don't you think so, sweetie?” I said to Simone.

She looked at me funny, as well. “'Sweetie?' What's wrong with you?” she said. “Why are you talking like that?”

“Huh? What do you mean?” I said breathily.

It would be so wonderful when they announced the winner! I hope I win!!! Heehee!

Suddenly, someone screamed. I couldn't help myself and reacted as well with my own scream.

We looked down the line of people standing on stage and we saw the one in the werewolf costume struggling with the one in the Dracula costume. After a final punch at Dracula, werewolf guy leaped off the stage, screamed at everyone and ran to the fire exit. He ran on all fours, like a real werewolf.

At the last moment, he turned back to us and howled. We all gasped at that, and he again turned and loped out of the fire door.

“My goodness!” I exclaimed.

“You shall not escape me, you foul denizen of the night!” the Dracula character declared in very over-acted yet authentic-sounding Transylvanian Bela Lugosi tones. He jumped off the stage and, with cape outstretched, like he was trying to take off, he ran after the werewolf.

Several of the others, mostly the ones dressed like policemen and soldiers, chased after them. “Come on, you jarheads!” the one dressed like a World War II marine yelled and waved for us to follow. Talk about stereotype GI dogfaces. Heehee.

Even the girls that were dressed like the slutty policewoman and the sexy soldier followed.

“I don't understand what's going on!” I exclaimed loudly in high, girly but sultry and sexy tones. Everyone turned to look at me, especially the men. Their expressions were unmistakable, and it made me want to hide or something. What had made me yell that!

11:01PM CST / 12:01AM EST

Suddenly, someone slammed open the ballroom's main doors -- I think it was our department's assistant director - and ran into the room. He was carrying what looked like a TV remote control. He went directly to the director and whispered into his ear.

Clearly, the director didn't want to believe and they had a short argument, the director's faux-French accent echoing in the room.

“I can't hear what they're saying!” I whined plaintively, and one of the men near me, this one wearing a Prince Charles-esque costume, reached for my hand and patted it comfortingly.

“There, there, child,” he said in RP English. That was strange...

After a few minutes of arguing, the director turned back to us.

“Mesdames et Messieurs,” he began, “I have just been told ce qui s'est passé -- umm, what has happened. I shall let l'assistant directeur explain.”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the man began, “about thirty minutes ago, this was broadcast on CNN and the three major networks nationwide. Normally, this would just have been laughed at, but the proof is all around. Here, let me play it for you.”

He pointed to the ceiling with the remote control and a projection screen started coming down. In a few moments, the news piece started playing.

Apparently, magic was real, and there were still witches and warlocks still around. And a bunch of these witches that called themselves the Shapers' Coven had, for funzies, made a little magic spell. Well, not 'little...'

Anyway, apparently, everyone that was affected was quite literally turned into the person that they were dressed as.

Oooh! So that's why I was acting strangely! Goodness!

There were other details, but I didn't think of that. I reached into my purse and pulled out my phone. But my phone had mutated into a retro something that someone like George Jetson would have used.

I dialed Dr. Tully's number and fidgeted while it took its time connecting.

“Hello?” Dr. Tully said from the other end.

“Oh, Dr. Tully,” I said breathlessly (and sexily), “thank goodness you're there!”

“Who's this?” he responded.

“It's me, Dr. Tully!” I said. “Don't you recognize me? It's me! Debbie!”

“Oh, no, Debbie,” he said. “You've been affected!”

“I knoooow!” I moaned, just like Marilyn Monroe would have. “I don't know what to dooo!”

“Debbie, calm down! I know what's happened. Keep it together!”

“But, but, but...”

He sighed. “What are you wearing?”

“I'm wearing a Marilyn Monroe costume!” I said excitedly, giggling. “You know? From that movie, The Seven Year Itch? It's that one where Marilyn was wearing this white dress and, while she was walking over a subway grate, the air blew up and flipped her skirt up?” I giggled. “It was so funny but so sexy, too. And then...”

“Debbie, Debbie! Stop! Keep it together -- whatever compulsions you have now, you can control it, Debbie! Just remember who you really are and you'll be fine!”

“Oh, Doctor! Will I ever...”

“The ones on the news -- those Shaper witches -- they said that everyone that was affected will change back to normal at sunrise, so just keep telling yourself you're Debbie Delaney, and in a few hours you'll be back to normal.

“But, Doctor... there are some people here...”

“I know. It's happening all over the country. The authorities are doing their best to take care of it. Did anyone there change into anything dangerous?”

“Well, nooo... most of the people here had very lame costumes, so we're mostly okay, except... oh, my goodness! There was one dressed like a werewolf and there was one like Dracula, and...” (I couldn't seem to stop talking like Marilyn!)

“Say no more. Helen, Lucy and Jackson are actually on the way to you now. Sit tight -- they'll help you round up those Dracula and werewolf characters, and whoever else needs help.”

“Yayyyy! But... you know,” I whispered, “will the ghost be coming with the guys?”

“Dana?”

“Ummm, yes?”

“Yes, she is. So keep your camera handy. Did you bring the sunglasses?”

“Yes?”

“Good. Use them. I have to say goodbye for now -- lots of other calls on the line.”

“Oh! All right. Thank you, Doctor.”

“And, by the way, you sound so cute right now.”

I couldn't stop myself and giggled.

11:31PM CST / 12:31AM EST

Pete, Simone and I sat at a table and drank some of the party's remaining prosecco, and I looked into my bag. It seemed that my Canon Powershot had morphed into a vintage late-model Leica M-Series camera, but the lens's material was still Dr. Tully's lens, and my Wayfarers had turned into vintage cat eye sunglasses, but the lenses were also still Dr. Tully's. I giggled at that.

Sitting beside me was Pete, and he was almost fuming. His head hadn't really turned into a skull like Ghost Rider, with fire surrounding it. Instead, his face had turned so gaunt that it might as well have turned into a skull, and his face was so bright red, he looked almost apoplectic in barely-contained anger.

I put on my fancy sunglasses and, through the glasses, I could see a vague nimbus of something like fire surrounding his head.

“Yikes!” I exclaimed.

He did something and his skull-like head returned to normal.

I turned to Simone, and she looked pretty normal, even through the sunglasses, but I could feel a kind of cold coming off her.

She smiled at me as she sipped her prosecco. “I'm fine, sweetie,” she said, apparently reading my mind.

Well, I thought she was more than fine. She looked cuter than before she changed.

She had complained that she was feeling warm and wanted to doff the cloak, but I was able to stop her in time. If she did that, she'd be like this permanently.

“Sunrise was like five hours away, honey,” I said. “You could take it off then?”

As for Pete, he wasn't complaining much. Since he mostly looked like himself (when he wasn't in his “Ghost Rider” persona), he didn't mind it much.

As I was looking at him though my Jackie Kennedy glasses, I saw Dana fly through the doors and float towards me, smiling and waving.

I waved back, and I didn't care if the people around me thought it was weird I was waving at nothing.

Dana stopped and floated in front of me. She gestured at me, up and down, and wolf whistled.

I giggled and waved her away in false modesty. Pete looked at me like I was crazy while Simone smiled in an indulgent way. Clearly, she knew to whom I was waving.

Seconds later, my friends, the unofficial Ghostbuster team of Flagstaff University, burst into the ballroom, and went directly to me. (Just to be clear, though, Flagstaff University isn't in Arizona -- it's just the name.)

There was Jackson, our electronics guy, Helen, the tall, giggly blonde who's our designated hacker, Lucy, our ass-kicking brunette analyst and all-around toughie, and, of course, our newest ghostly member, Dana, floating right beside me.

The girls gave me a hug, and Jackson wolf-whistled. “Wow, Debbie -- you look super-sexy!”

I smiled and preened.

“So, Debbie,” Lucy said, “Doc said there were some people that were changed...”

“Oh, nothing dangerous except maybe for these two” -- I gestured to Pete and Simone -- “but they're okay.” My guys nodded hello to the two. “But there was also one who was dressed like a werewolf and another one like Dracula.”

“That could be a problem,” Helen said. “Where are they now?”

“Last we heard, they were running through the offices upstairs, being chased by Hogan's Heroes.”

“Hogan's heroes?”

“Oh, just a bunch rejects from the Police Academy movies,” I giggled. “Guests dressed as soldiers and policemen.”

Just then, we heard several shots.

I looked up and saw Dana waving towards the fire exit.

“Come on!” I said. “Dana's signaling us to follow her!”

I got up and everyone followed me as I minced to the fire exit. Keeping in mind what Dr. Tully had said, I switched to normal running instead of the mincing, tapping fast-walk I'd originally fallen into.

I followed Dana up the stairwell as she floated up to the roof, and we came to the roof deck's door. One of the people from the party that was dressed like a marine was blocking it.

“I'm sorry, Miss,” the man said, “I can't let you through.”

“But we have to get up to the roof!” We heard several shots.

“You're very pretty,” the man said, “but this is a military operation. Please...”

Pete came up and slugged him in the face. The faux-marine fell down like a sack of potatoes.

“Military operation, my ass,” Pete growled.

“Petey!” I exclaimed. “You didn't have to do that!”

What was I saying? I thought to myself. “Petey?” Really?

Anyway, I peeked around the metal door and saw several of the fake marines and police on the ground either dead or unconscious while the rest that were still standing were firing at the Dracula lookalike.

Dracula just stood there absorbing the shots, but he wasn't really invulnerable -- the bullets were actually hurting him but, for some reason, he was still standing.

Dracula had his right hand at the throat of the werewolf lookalike, the werewolf struggling in his grip, while he had his right arm wrapped around the sexy faux-policewoman, who was also struggling.

It seemed that Pete couldn't leave it alone. Taking the chain from around his shoulders, he used it to rush the vampire-lookalike, his face looking like it was about to burst into fire, and wrapped it around the Dracula-wannabe's neck, forcing him to let his prisoners go.

The werewolf fell on the ground, unconscious, while the girl limped away. Helen and Lucy grabbed the girl and pulled her to safety.

Having let go of his prisoners, Dracula brought both his hands down and around Pete's neck, and the two struggled, whoever choked the other first would be the winner. The others stopped firing so that they wouldn't hit Pete, and tried to find a clear shot.

Dana floated in front of me to catch my attention, and waved to two of the unconscious fake policemen's belts. I saw their handcuffs and tasers, nodded to the floating entity, grabbed the cuffs and tasers, and then ran towards Pete.

I crouched down and snapped a pair of handcuffs around werewolf-man's wrists and another around his ankles, and then signaled Jackson to drag him away.

I then turned my attention to Faux-Dracula. I stood up, pressed both tasers against his temples and pressed the triggers.

That sent electricity directly into his brain and, after shaking in electric shock for a minute, he fell down unconscious.

After a minute, I giggled into the silence. “Wow! I'm good, aren't I.”

After a moment, I saw Dana giving me a razzberry.

3:31AM CST / 4:31AM EST

A few hours later, the real military had come over and taken the affected people away. I was told that they were going to be put into holding cells until the morning, and, for those who were lucky enough to still be in their complete costumes, they should revert back to normal when the sun rose.

However, for the others who didn't, the military would keep them isolated until the witches who'd started all of this could take charge of them.

As for Pete, Simone and I, we went home to my apartment while Jackson, Helen and Lucy went back to Flagstaff.

It was sad, though -- Pete was permanently stuck the way he was. Simone, too.

Since Pete had inadvertently taken off his chain during his fight with Dracula, he couldn't change back to normal anymore, but since he mostly looked like he used to, I think he didn't really mind.

As for Simone, she had taken off her robe earlier, too, so she was stuck as well. But since she looked very similar to her old self, she could just pass for normal, and just pass herself off later, after all of this is over, as just having had a bunch of plastic surgeries and a lot of liposuction to the people who knew her.

At present, the two of them were in the living room -- Pete was sleeping on my couch while Simone was sitting and watching TV.

I looked at them from my bedroom door -- Pete snoring and Simone munching popcorn. Without turning, Simone waved to me -- she didn't need to look: she just knew I was there.

I knew enough of the Ghost Rider comics that I knew what Pete could do now, but I didn't know much about the Death character from Sandman. I guess I'd find more about it later.

As for me -- well, I didn't really have any special abilities, except to look and sound sexy. But I knew now that I didn't have to act like a bimbo if I didn't want to.

But if I did, I knew that I could make most guys do anything I wanted just by asking. I guess that's enough of a super power for me.

But at the moment, I had a question I needed to ask myself.

I could now be a real girl if I wanted. My only worry was that I might lose my photography skills, and whatever other talents I had learned or accumulated over the years, if I permanently stayed this way. And, of course, I'd have wasted the thousands of dollars I spent for my GRS and other operations... Well, not really.

I took my little Canon camera, which had changed into a vintage Leica film camera. Nope -- this camera won't do.

I grabbed my other camera, the DSLR, and tested things -- taking pictures of my bedroom, living room, the buildings outside my window, and everything else inside the apartment. I grinned -- seemed I hadn't lost any of my photographer's magic.

Hmmm...

I guess I'll take a shower, i said to myself.

I took off my white dress as well as my underwear, went to the bathroom and had a long, refreshing shower.

After my shower, and as I rubbed the water from my bright-blonde hair with my towel, I watched the sun peek over the horizon.

“Good morning, Marilyn,” Simone said.

“No,” I replied. “It's Debbie, actually.”

* * *

Roberta “Bobbie” Cabot is a transgender girl from DC. She transitioned in 2004, and has been living as a girl full time ever since. With a mom from Italy, a dad from Quebec, and a spouse from Kyoto, her writing (and her speech) has been quite affected (lol) and is less than perfect. However, she doesn't really speak Italian, French or Japanese, although she can puzzle them out a bit. She is a fan of sci-fi, drama, love stories, romcoms and comedy/sitcoms, and these are the kinds of stories she looks for here in BigCloset. Her only “claim to fame” is her still-incomplete story, “Danny,” first posted in Crystal's Storysite back in 2009.

“Danny,” and her most recent stories, “Shepherd Moon,” “Autobots Revisited” and “Drew Nance, Girl Detective - Book 1: The Secret of the Old Clock,” are all here in BigCloset.

If anyone wants to contact Bobbie, one can click “Send author a message” at the bottom of one of her story pages.

* * *

Great Responsibility

by Trismegistus Shandy

* * *

When Noah told us he wanted to cosplay as Captain Marvel for Halloween, Whitney and I blinked at each other across the breakfast table and were silent for a few moments. Then I said, "Sure, Noah, that's cool. We can go look for a costume this weekend. Aria, do you know what you want to go as yet?"

"No," she said, stirring her spoon in her bowl of cereal without taking a bite, "I still haven't decided."

We didn't say anything about it in front of the kids, but we were worried. Concerned, rather. Once we got the kids on the elementary school bus, and we had about five minutes left before Whitney had to leave for work, we looked at each other and I said: "So Captain Marvel, huh?"

"Derek, do you think Noah might be transgender?"

"It would be fine if he were -- I mean, fine with me. But he'd suffer a lot, despite everything we could do to protect him. Her, if -- I mean -- well, we don't have much evidence yet, do we? Wanting to dress up as his favorite superhero doesn't prove anything by itself."

"Yeah, not by itself, it's just... Do you think we've overlooked something else? Some other piece of evidence that he's trans?"

We talked until she had to walk out the door, and again during a long phone call at lunchtime, but didn't come to any definite conclusions. While I was waiting for some code to compile that afternoon, I did some research on transgender stuff, especially early signs that your kid might be transgender. I realized there were a lot of other forms of -- uh, transgender-ness? -- besides just wanting to transition to the opposite sex; gender-fluid, for instance, where you feel like a guy sometimes and a girl at other times, or genderqueer, where you don't fit into either category. I'm probably not explaining it right; look it up for yourself. Even now, after everything that's happened, there's a lot I still don't understand about it.

At supper that night, Whitney asked Noah, "What's your favorite thing about Captain Marvel?"

"She can fly and shoot energy blasts and she's the best Avenger and she flies jet planes in her secret identity, which is the best thing to do when you're not superheroing, not like stupid reporter stuff like Superman or Spider-Man, and --" He went on like that for a while without a pause for breath, and we weren't really enlightened much about his gender identity. Later that night, in bed, Whitney and I talked some more about it, and still didn't come to any conclusions, except that we'd better keep our eyes peeled for any other early signs that Noah might be transgender.

"And," she suggested, "maybe, just to show Noah we support him and all, we could crossplay when we take the kids out trick-or-treating?"

"That's an idea," I said. "Any specifics you have in mind?"

"I was thinking you could be the Wasp and I'd be Ant-Man."

"Hmm, that could work." I wasn't super comfortable with the idea, but it was, on further thought, less daunting than sitting down and giving Noah a version of The Talk that went into gender identity issues I barely understood.

* * *

By Halloween, Aria had decided she wanted to be Scraps, the Patchwork Girl, from the Oz books which Whitney'd been reading to the kids at night, and we'd all gotten our costumes put together. I felt pretty silly at first, as Whitney helped me get dressed, tucking my junk back so it wouldn't show a bulge and getting the stuffed bra on, but once I was dressed and made up with the mask, insect-wings and all, I actually looked okay. Still clearly a guy, but not as stupid-looking as I'd feared. Whitney looked pretty good in her Ant-Man costume; her homemade helmet looked more like the one from the comics than the one from the movies, and even with her breasts bound and a pair of socks in her jockey shorts, you could still tell she was a woman, and a beautiful one, in my opinion.

The kids looked adorable in their costumes; Noah could really pass for a girl once Whitney got done with him, which wasn't too hard at his age, and Aria was bizarrely cute with her quilt-dress and her patchwork face-paint and a rainbow-colored yarn wig. We set out trick-or-treating a little after five, and the kids soon had a pretty respectable haul of candy. We were two blocks from home, on our way back, when things got weird.

It was almost sunset, and we'd paused at the top of a hill to look back toward the Pacific and see the red disc resting just above the distant water. But the kids were more interested in candy than sunsets, so we paused only a moment and continued downhill toward the next house. We walked up the driveway and let Noah do the honors of ringing the doorbell (Aria had gotten to do it at the last house).

"Trick or treat!" the kids sang out as the door was opened by a woman in her sixties. She smiled and held out a wicker basket full of mini Twix bars.

"Happy Halloween," she said, and then did a double take, staring at us with widening eyes. "What just happened?"

"I'm not sure," I said. "I felt something --" My voice was different. But I didn't have time to think about that just then, because Aria had collapsed to the ground. Whitney and I both knelt down to check on her, talking over each other in our fear and anxiety, demanding to know if she was okay, what was wrong, what happened -- then she flopped over and flailed her arms, and I saw with horror that they were bending in places they shouldn't, and then so were her legs; she seemed to have no knees or elbows, but her limbs just bent and curved wherever. And her face... that didn't look like facepaint... and in place of her eyes, there were big blue buttons. We hadn't made any attempt to give her something that looked like button-eyes.

All this time I was ignoring the signals from my body that told me something was different about me, too.

"It's okay, Mom," Aria said, picking herself up. "I just tripped. Can you help me pick up my candy?" Her jack o'lantern bucket had tipped over and spilled when she fell.

"You turned into Scraps for real!" Noah said. He bent down and took Aria's hand, which was also patchwork -- we hadn't made her gloves or put face-paint on her hands as well as her face, figuring it would smear all over the candy and doorbells. "Oh, wow, you're soft!"

"What could have done this?" Whitney said in a low voice, and when everyone wasn't talking at once, I could tell that her voice was deeper. Like mine was higher. And, turning my attention from Aria for a moment, I saw that she didn't look at all feminine anymore.

"What kind of trick is this?" the woman said. "You're not supposed to play pranks on people who give you candy!"

"It's not a trick," I said in my new, higher voice. "At least, we're not the ones playing it. I don't know how it happened, but --"

Just then we heard screams from somewhere further down the street.

"I'll save you!" Noah yelled -- and took off flying. I was too astonished to move for a moment, but before I could consciously realize what I was doing, I started running after him -- and then my wings were buzzing and everything around me was getting bigger and bigger, and I lifted off, too, but still couldn't keep up with Noah as he (she, I finally realized) shot toward the source of the screams.

A vampire in stereotypical evening dress with a red cloak -- not more than ten years old -- was attacking a girl about the same age in a ball gown; she was the source of the screams. A pirate with an eyepatch was trying to pull him off of her, but after a few moments of struggle, the vampire threw him off and he went flying. Noah zoomed in and caught the pirate, easily lifting him -- he was three or four times her weight -- and setting him down gently on a lawn, then zeroing in on the vampire and shooting an energy blast from her fingertips.

The Wasp could shoot energy blasts of some kind too; I remembered that much from the movie, even though I wasn't the same level of comics nerd that Whitney or Noah was. I suspected I could do something like that, so I put myself between the vampire and the girl, raised my arm, and shot him in the face. I hated to do that a kid, but if he was going to hurt the girl -- no, he already had. Her neck was bleeding, and his fangs and lips were dripping blood.

Two more energy blasts from Noah and one from me and the vampire was down for the count. I checked his pulse and breathing and didn't find any; I was horrified, thinking we'd killed him. It wasn't until much later that we found out he didn't need to breathe anymore.

The pirate rushed over to us, looking frantically between the girl and the boy. He went to the girl first. "Savannah! Are you okay?"

"He bit me," she sobbed. "Danny bit me!"

The pirate took off the bandana from his head and used it to stanch the bleeding from her neck. I buzzed over close to Noah's ear and said, "We need to get back to your mom and Aria."

"But there's other people that need our help! We're superheroes, we're supposed to help people!" She turned in mid-air (she'd never landed), looking over toward the houses on the south side of the street, and said: "Over there, on the next street. Come on, Dad!"

"No, wait --" But she was already off. I flew after her as fast as I could, falling behind again. I heard my phone ring and reached for it... I no longer had the fanny pack I'd been wearing over my costume, though. But my costume seemed to have a utility belt, and by trial and error I found the compartment with the phone. It had shrunk with me. Whitney was calling.

"Where are you? Is Noah with you?" he asked.

"I'm chasing her as fast as I can," I said. "We're flying over the houses to Pradera Street... she said somebody needs our help there."

Whitney was quiet for a few moments. "I'm taking Aria home. Be safe, and try to get Noah to come home as soon as you can... but if she's got Captain Marvel's powers and you've only got the Wasp's, I'm not sure you can make her come home if she doesn't want to."

"I love you," I said. "I'll bring her home safe, I promise."

She was right, although Noah didn't really have the same level of power as her favorite superhero. Her energy blasts weren't nearly as powerful and she couldn't fly nearly as fast. Still, she was a lot faster than me. In the time it took me to fly across those houses and yards and have that brief conversation with Whitney, Noah had already arrived on the scene, knocked out a couple of zombies with energy blasts, and shot off off further down the street chasing another scream. It took me quite a while to catch up with her and finally convince her to come home.

Finding our house from the air in the dark wasn't all that easy, but we managed it with the GPS on my miniaturized phone, and landed in the driveway, where I tried for a few moments to figure out how to grow to normal size again. I'd originally shrunk in a moment of panic, not consciously thinking about it. Eventually I got the trick and shot up to Noah's height and beyond... but not, I realized when we walked in the front door, as tall as I'd been before.

Whitney rushed to the front hall and hugged me, then Noah. The feeling of my breasts -- real now, not nylons rolled up and stuffed into a bra -- squeezing against his muscular chest gave me a weird, fluttery sensation.

"We fought a lot of monsters and bad guys, Mom!" Noah said. "Why didn't you shrink down and ride a flying ant and come with us?"

"I couldn't go off and leave Aria by herself," Whitney said. "And you shouldn't have run off without us."

"But I'm a superhero, Mom! With great power comes great responsibility!"

"You're Captain Marvel, not Spider-Man," Whitney rejoined with a grin. "And you're only eight. You still have a bedtime, even when it's not a school night."

Aria tumbled into the hall, doing a cartwheel like the Patchwork Girl did in the books. Seeing her cloth, flexible limbs move like that made my eyes water, and it hit me with a pang -- Whitney, Noah and I had changed gender, and that might be exactly what Noah wanted (it certainly didn't seem to bother her), but it was going to be a hard adjustment for me and Whitney. But for Aria it would be so much worse; she wasn't human, wasn't even organic anymore. How was she even alive? Was she?

"I've been watching the news," Whitney said as we all went into the living room, where the TV was on. "This kind of thing is happening all over the country, and in Canada and Mexico, even though not everybody in Mexico celebrates Halloween... nobody knows why, though. People in costume just suddenly changed..." Of course you know all that by now, even if you live in an area where nobody goes trick-or-treating anymore and spent a quiet night before going to bed at your usual time.

We all sat watching the news for over an hour, and got out our laptops and looked at the trending YouTube videos, seeing professional and amateur footage of other people all over who'd been changed into their costumes. Most of the worst disasters of the night tended to involve large concentrations of zombies, although the dragon rampaging in downtown Boston had them beat for sheer property damage.

Finally, at their usual eight o'clock bedtime, we insisted on the kids going to bed. Noah wanted to sleep in her Captain Marvel costume, but I said she had to at least take off the boots that her sneakers had changed into. And with the way the costume's seams had merged together, she practically had to take it all the way off to pee before bed. Would I have let her do that if I'd known then what I found out a little later? I'm not sure. But Noah still seems happy being a girl, and especially happy to have super-powers.

After the kids were in bed, Whitney and I went and changed into sleeping clothes. I borrowed one of his nightgowns, or maybe "borrow" isn't the right word considering how things turned out. We were too uncomfortable still with our new bodies to have sex yet, but we wanted to see ourselves and each other naked, to verify with our eyes what we'd felt from the inside.

"Did you ever try shrinking while you had the costume on?" I asked once we were dressed again.

"No," he said. "I was pretty sure I could, once I saw you shrink and take off, but I didn't want to disappear and leave Aria seemingly by herself. She might not be able to hear me clearly when I was tiny."

"Do you want to watch the news some more?"

"Yeah, let's see if anybody's figured anything out."

Of course, less than an hour later we found out that we shouldn't have done that. I stared at the screen in shock as those witches from Kansas showed off their magic for the studio talking heads and then warned people not to take off their costumes or get pregnant if they wanted to change back.

"This wasn't going to be permanent," I said, "but we made it so."

"There was no way we could have known," Whitney said, putting his arm around me. I started to cry, and leaned into his shoulder. "But look at the bright side... Aria's clothes are part of her; she can't take them off. So she'll be back to normal in the morning."

"Great," I whispered. "Yeah. That's really good news."

It was several days before we got comfortable enough with our bodies for me to discover the other good news.

* * *

Zodiac

by MrSimple

* * *

A powerfully rhythmic beat played in the distance.

The drumming thunder echoed through the dark alleys.

Earth itself shook and the monuments of man trembled.

Throughout the night sky, the darkness fled from the brilliant firestorm.

Alarmed shouts and desperate screams escalated louder over the city's nightlife.

With a monstrously volcanic roar, all were forewarned of the approaching danger, but none expected how menacing it would be!

* * *

A day earlier

Alex stared at the collosal pile and asked: “How is this going to work?”

Kneeling by the blinding collection of colorful props and costumes was Zhen. “I've friends coming,” he said. “They've practiced this sort of dance before --”

“This isn't a dance! We have to scare everyone, not treat them to a fucking moonwalking Thriller!” Richy wasn't very amused. His concept of a haunted fundraiser was setting up a haunt and spooking the guests.

I personally thought Zhen's idea was unique. A week ago, we'd had no idea how to pull it off and Zhen was the only one to voice a plan. All Richy wanted was a place to hang out and yell at people... kinda like what he was just doing.

“What are we gonna do if they don't show?” As much as I hated Richy's smirking at that question, Alex did have a good point.

Zhen smirked back. “If they don't show, what else do you all have in mind?”

“A hayride across the countryside or one of those old jails would be creepy enough.” Richy stepped toward the bright colors piled on the floor and nudged the jaw of the mega-costume with his boot. “It won't fucking work. I looked it up --”

“Looked what up?” Zhen offered Richy a chance to explain, but step-by-step. Not Richy's outright pessimism.

“This so called 'Dance' uses poles to hold the thing up in the air, like it's flyin'.” He pointed down at the pile. “Nothing here but pretty rags.”

“There's more than one variant. The one you described, that could be Shenlong. Storm, wind, and thunder... Weather. It's supposed to fly.” Zhen pointed out the pile. “This is Dilong. Earth and river. It's supposed to remain on the ground... plus this is its year.” He stood up and laid a hand on Richy's shoulder. “Trust me. We know what we are doing.”

Richy brushed Zhen's hand off. “No offense, but I'm gonna laugh if this shit hits the fan.” Then he walked away and out of the warehouse.

I blinked a few times when the outside light poured in. Then I turned back to Zhen and Alex.

Alex squatted and lifted up the expansive fabric that made up the earth dragon. “What do we do while waiting for your party to arrive?”

“We make certain that what we have here is the whole thing.” Across from Alex, Zhen knelt next to the pile. Without even glancing my way, he called out to me. “Edna, you want your credits?”

Shyly, I said, “Y-yes.”

“Come over here and help me with the other end.” Zhen did glance at Alex and instructed: “When we pull it up and out, I want you to run your hand over the edge. You're feeling for any tears, nicks or thinning in the hem.”

“Got it. Coming, Ed?” When Alex called me over too, I couldn't refuse.

I got off of the bottom of the stairs and carefully walked over to them. As I bent over to pick up the other end of the fabric, I felt a stitch in my back. I kept my mouth shut and endured the muscle pain.

Bending over was all I could manage. My kneecaps had experienced a crippling accident a few years back. Only in the last year had I been walking.

To be honest, I had no idea why I was with these guys. The credits were an excuse for school. I could have gained those points behind a desk.

Zhen was a dark-golden, black haired, short and wiry guy with the biggest and roundest glasses I'd seen on anybody's face. He was very sure of himself.

Alex had the same golden tone as Zhen, but he was Hispanic. He was thick-limbed and strong. He had a barrel chest, but his stomach was a bit more pronounced.

Richy was a farm boy in the big city. He was of average build and had decent looks, but behind that face was a jerk.

Then there was me: the only girl.

A crippled girl with no future except as someone who sits down all day and fills out paperwork or answers phone calls. That was my goal. My only goal...

We had finished inspecting one of the expansive sheets and had been about to pick up the next --

-- but as I bent over, my back seized up and I unintentionally hissed.

Zhen immediately took control. “Edna, go sit down. Alex, help her and I'll be back. I'm going to the truck.”

One man went one way, the other approached me and I froze. Alex gave my back a small pat with one hand and pointed to the stairwell. “Let's take you back to your corner.”

“My corner?” He smirked at me in amusement and nodded. “Am I on a timeout or something?”

We were walking to the stairwell as he answered: “Yes. This is a timeout for you to get better.” He shrugged. “I don't know what Zhen is up to, but I'm sure it'll help.”

I grinned as I grabbed the stair rail for support and asked: “Help me or you guys?”

“Maybe both?” He shook his head. “Zhen only knows.”

Our curiosity didn't last long before Zhen reappeared. He carried a big box and set it down. When he opened it, he pulled out an odd article of clothing, golden-framed and with a bright red inlaid draconic decoration surrounding the midriff...

It took me one second to recognize what he had in his hands. “Is that a corset?”

“No. It's a back brace... a fancifully embroidered back brace.” Zhen held the brace out to me. Once I took it, he knelt back down and pulled out a strange, thick cylinder.

He shook it and the bottom of it extended down to the floor. He turned it upside down and shook it until the other end reached the floor too. With a clicking noise, both ends locked in place.

I asked: “What is that?”

“A staff. Instead of wasting your time here, you can rely on this and come back with us to sort everything out.” I gave him a deadpan stare as he held the extension staff out to me. “Here. Take it.”

I took it. “I thought we didn't have any poles?”

“That's a staff. And I never said anything about not having poles. Richy was the one who mentioned not seeing any.”

“That's not going to collapse on her, is it?” When Alex said that, I immediately became self-conscious of my weight. I wasn't big, but I wasn't model material.

And Zhen snapped open the back brace for me. He gave me a straight-faced look and nodded for me to enter the brace.

I used the staff to hold myself up and Zhen put the brace on me. I'd never worn one before, and had no idea how the thing should be secured.

And that was when I realized my terrible mistake!

He shifted the thing around my middle and strung together the harness on the sides --

-- and yanked! I hissed. He yanked again, eliciting another hiss.

“Fucking Hell! Zhen! Take it off.” It had hurt being put on and I felt constricted by the brace... no, that was definitely a corset.

He yanked on the third harness around and under my bust.

“Zhen!!” In case he hadn't heard me, I put all the pain he was inflicting into the yell.

“It's on. You'll be fine and now you can help us.” He laid his hand on my shoulder and stated: “No more pain. Trust me.”

I mumbled and grumbled as we went back to the colorful dragon hoard. After an hour of assisting the two, I discovered Zhen was right.

I felt no pain.

* * *

The next day

“Jesus H. Christ. They actually showed...” Why Richy seemed pissed about Zhen's party showing up, I had no idea.

On second thought, that was a lie. I knew why Richy was upset. He wanted Zhen to be wrong about something for once. I kinda did too, but not at the expense of others.

On a third thought, I wound up wearing Zhen's damn corset again. I appreciated the staff, but when I looked in the mirror and saw how I appeared with the corset, I looked funny. Like I was only wearing one piece of a set.

To myself, I said, “Maybe I am?”

While Zhen's party was figuring out how to put on the dragon suit, I walked over to the big box by the stairwell and looked inside.

Gold and red.

Whatever I was wearing was a part of a set.

My gaze drifted to the extension staff. It was a ruddy-red.

“Zhen!?” He appeared surprised when he saw me looking through the box.

With a smile on his face, he raced over. “Do you want to try it on?”

My mouth partially opened, then closed. Looking back in the box, I picked up some of the pieces to inspect them.

“What is it for?”

Instead of telling me what it was, he gave me a history lesson... or a mythology lesson. “Dilong is an earth dragon, but also a dragon of the river. A friend of the Sea Kingdom. The costume in there is the Sea Dragon Armor.”

“Okay.” To be sure, I asked: “So it's armor?”

“Yes. I told you that was a back brace.” I rolled my eyes when he said that.

When I laid my eyes back on him, his smile grew. And I didn't like it! “What?”

“Try it on. I'll help you.” He was quickly on his knees and taking out each piece of the gold and red set.

“Zhen... please, no.” In exasperation, I tried to protest, but he pulled out everything and became assertive with sliding on certain parts. Like armbands and gloves, a big coat, shoulder guards, thigh-knee-shin pads, and more. He even put a long feathery crown on my head that had to be secured with an elastic string beneath my jaw.

I stood there in silence, leaning on my staff and gazing into empty space with a mile-long stare. When I turned to look at Alex and Richy, they snickered!

Then Zhen turned and waved his crew over. He spoke to them in a hushed voice before he waved back to me.

Zhen's party appeared to be enthusiastic about something as their chatter escalated excitedly.

When their little party broke, Zhen came back and told me: “You're going to be a part of the attraction.”

“...What?” I couldn't have heard that right. “Say that again?”

“You'll be fine. The role you will take is dainty, shifts back and forth, titters behind a limp wrist... oh yes, definitely hold the staff like this from now on.” He took my hands and manipulated them in an odd angle around the staff.

I felt like I was giving the staff a monkey's grip.

Zhen backed up and said, “Now I want to hear you laugh.”

“Laugh?” He gestured for me to commence with the laughs. “Ah, okay.”

For a moment, I had to work up the courage to laugh at nothing. Then I laughed.

“Ed, come on. You can do better.” I narrowed my eyes at him and tried louder. “That's not what I meant. Try a real laugh. The kind that would snap you out of that corset.”

My jaw dropped. “You said it was --”

“Edna! Laugh for me! Show me how a King would laugh!” That was a strange request.

But I did what he asked. I pulled in lungfuls of air, and laughed boisterously. He was about to speak again, but after confirming my suspicion about the corset, I didn't give him a chance to speak.

I laughed in his face, loud. Laughed until my stomach really did hurt!

I had to hold my side and lean on the staff at the same time by the time I finished my ruckus.

Zhen's smile was absolutely genuine. “You're perfect. Young boyish face --”

“Boyish?” I gave him a glare with that remark.

But he continued as if he hadn't heard or paid me heed. “-- slender and small, light and clear skin, bright blue eyes, and excellent short hair... we need more hair.”

“More hair?” I was more baffled at him commenting on my short hair and demanding more!

He turned away from me while I caught my breath.

Zhen pointed at me and I only caught one word as he spoke: “Wukong.”

That name sounded familiar. I could have sworn my little brother would play an online game with a monkey character with that name. “Wait a sec... isn't he in --”

“Come over here and allow them to work on you.” I stood my ground and stared at Zhen with both shock and defiance. “Or they can work on you there.”

I practically screeched: “Work on me?!”

And I had no opportunity to escape with my disability. His party surrounded me and began a series of applications to my hands, neck, face... they even worked between the outfit to have the costume blend in with my casual clothes beneath!

As shy as I was, I kept very still while they worked on me. I didn't enjoy strangers touching me, but they'd already begun their work on me. Plus Zhen's always-right streak grounded me.

“Good, good. Excellent!” While Zhen appraised and admired whatever was happening to me, Alex and Richy were besides themselves with barely contained guffaws!

I don't know how long I stood there, but I began to absolutely rely on the staff to keep up. My legs began to buckle at my knees... I squared my shoulders and gripped the staff between both hands as I endured the party's administrations to my makeup.

I supposed it was my posture that brought Alex rushing over to me. “Zhen, call them off.”

Zhen appraised me again. “Just a minute more and she's done.”

Alex squeezed past the group around me and gave me a shoulder to lean on.

“...Thanks,” I whispered.

“Sure... you look flushed.” I wasn't surprised, but Alex remarking on that made me conscious of the fact.

I was hot in the outfit. “I should go outside. Get some air.”

“Yes. That is a good idea.” Zhen nodded and quickly ran to the door. He opened it for me and elaborated. “We can get an idea how you would look in the light.”

I gave him a baleful smile. He smiled back, then jerked up in a jump as I stabbed down on his toes with the bottom of my staff.

My laughter rang into the evening as I walked out.

* * *

Later that night

The warehouse we'd rented was transformed easily into what appeared to be a cave. We relied on Richy for the decor: black tarps and plenty of his country leftovers from before he'd moved to the city.

Zhen's crew had thoroughly familiarized themselves with the dragon costume. At least four people were acting as the dragon's four two-toed-feet. The legs were like cloaks to those feet-men.

The head had to be manipulated by two people. Zhen volunteered to hold up and blink the eyes, so he could coordinate where to go. Richy was to open and close the dragon's giant mouth. At first, I thought that would have been difficult with Zhen in there too, but they showed me how the head was supported on both their shoulders.

Along the serpentine body, Zhen's crew crouched or raised themselves when the dragon would move about. The tail was being swung around and moved about by Alex alone.

When the cars began to show up, I would greet them with a limp wave and a little titter as I saw children.

“Monkeys?” I had to question that.

One of the grownups informed me their school had an event. The teachers and their classes had drawn tickets on what animal to dress as. Some were kitties and doggies, others fishies and froggies, and more... and these were monkeys!

I should've been collecting money, but I was distracted by the little monkeys jumping around as they saw me! They were so cute!

As the kids first approached me, I discovered my costume had a tail -- one of the little tots pulled it and my pants almost exposed cheek!

I shouldn't have, but by instinct, I whirled around on my staff and gave the little guy a playful snarl while comically pulling my pants back up. The kids around me laughed, but my targeted kid hadn't...

So I painfully crouched down, crossed my legs, and offered him a look at my staff in offer of apology. He appeared interested and more cheerful, and that was enough for me to appreciate some triumph.

I made a mental note that I had better get a decent amount of credits for tonight.

The kid with my staff had his parents calling for him, so I took my staff back. Unfortunately, I had trouble standing back up.

Instead of going through the ordeal, I slumped my shoulders and frowned a comically grumpy face...

A moment later, my back, legs, and skin felt tingly --

-- and I heard screams! Not the scared kind I was expecting when the show would start.

Real and terrible screams.

I looked at the many butts of the crowd in my face and wondered what was going on.

Then I saw a few of those cheeks clench just a split second before the crowd turned in all directions to flee!

Without a thought, I climbed up my staff to stand and see for myself what had happened. My short stature didn't help.

In a few seconds, I had no need to see to know what was going on. I heard it. A series of thunderous crushing noises. Something massive was moving around in the warehouse.

Then I felt it. An earthquake of a colossal creature smashing through the warehouse wall. I didn't understand what I saw.

A dragon!

Our dragon. But it was real. Alive!

Once that thing burst out of the warehouse, chaos followed. Everyone was running and slamming into each other. A free for all to escape.

I would've been one of them too --

-- but I'd caught sight of a little monkey boy sprawled out on the ground. The kid who'd held my staff. And his parents weren't about to pick him back up.

Once again, without any thought, I slipped against the flow and through the racing crowd to the kid. I had a sure grip on my staff as I climbed to sit down and cross my legs.

I don't know what I was thinking. Maybe I had thought it was impossible for me to pick the kid up. But I guarded the kid and blocked the stampede with my staff held across and above my head. I was like a red guardrail!

So many people... they couldn't have all come from the attraction. Something else was causing a mass panic in the streets.

More and more, the flow of people came and I was barely holding onto the staff. People pushed and shoved until some fell against or over my staff.

I was amazed to not have been crushed under the weight, but I supposed adrenaline gave me the strength to keep the masses away from the kid. With him in mind, I glanced behind me to check up on him --

-- and saw children had gathered behind me without my notice!? My jaw dropped and a squawk of shock escaped me as I took in how hairy they were!

Monkeys. They were kid monkeys!

I tried to ask them about their parents above all the shouts and screams. But the moment I made the attempt, they rushed and clung to my back as a roar silenced me and everyone.

My attention went up. Wa-ay up!

If my jaw had dropped at the sight of those kids, then it unhinged and hit my lap at the terrifying image of the dragon just feet away!

The sky had changed color from the night blue to a fiery orange. I didn't know if the dragon had breathed fire or if there was something else in the city setting it aflame.

But I didn't take a chance when the dragon opened its huge mouth!

I swung the staff at it --

-- and the extension stretched further out than I'd thought possible!

The dragon flinched away and shook its mighty head. Those eyes were crazy... like googly eyes. They weren't focused on a thing!

And as I observed it, the dragon wasn't coordinated at all. Its legs kept stretching out in different directions, but it mostly slithered on its stomach. Like it didn't know how to walk... or had no control of its legs.

Everything about the dragon appeared to be in chaos, as if it was having a seizure.

I tilted my head to the side and laid my cheek on the shoulder pad in confused wonder. “Did I do that?” I lowered my staff and gave it a renewed appraisal.

My attention was brought back to the dragon as I heard the warehouse crumble behind it. The incredibly long tail had aimlessly swung and smashed into the structure.

“Okay. Time to go.” Over my shoulder, I saw the kids were still there. “Give me a hand, will ya?”

Two of the bigger kids came to my rescue --

-- and I yowled in pain! Someone had stepped on... on...

“Tail?” I reached back and yanked on my tail. I actually felt it slip out from under a kid's foot before the two helped me stand up. I quickly turned around and followed my tail before I stood still. I felt around my pants, dug into them, and --

-- my head shot straight up when I felt I had more than one head and tail down there. With a sheepishly nervous grin, I pulled out and ended my exploration.

Right now was not the time to figure out what was going on with me. Not with a crazy dragon looming over our heads!

I used the extension staff to keep the crowd from stomping the kids flat as we made our escape. In a couple of minutes, we managed to get far enough away from the dragon --

-- but there were other dangers nearby.

I had just seen a wolfman run from one alley and into the next.

A large droid of some kind bumped into a door before blasting it open.

A school of little fishpeople were running and screaming after an old lady across the street.

And countless characters of various kinds... with our nasty rare bird.

The earth shook. I looked back and saw the dragon had come closer, but blindly collided with the nearby apartment building.

It didn't stop trying to go that direction, either! The dragon was digging through the building, smashing its way through and destabilizing the whole thing.

My eyes drifted up the height of the apartment building. “Uh-oh.”

I immediately turned and made the kids scramble across the street!

We all managed to make it across.

My attention shifted to the collection of tots. I took a moment to count the little monkeys.

Then my focus changed back to the sudden silence.

With a yip from me, I turned and saw why as everyone and everything had quieted. We all watched the destroyed apartment building tip towards the rented warehouse. I really hoped that Alex, Richy, Zhen, and the whole crew were long gone by now.

At least, I hoped they had been before the dragon appeared... our dragon...

In an insane way, the uncoordinated movements of the dragon began to make sense to me. I gulped when a sickening theory entered my mind about how that dragon may be comprised of multiple people.

From beyond the rubble of the building, I saw the long serpentine tail swish back and forth. That dragon was still on the move...

For now, I had to get myself and these kids to safety. The only place I could think of going was a police station.

As the crazy Halloween night continued, I fended off one abomination, another lunatic, a hysterical crowd, and so much more.

When we made it to our destination, I took note of the huge assembly of frightened people waiting for police to take action. Some of those officers were directing a number of citizens to shelters.

The night felt like it would never end, but I decided a shelter was better than out in the open with who knows what else went bump in the night. Punching my heroics out, I called it a night before I ran into something climactic. Those sort of things could be left to the superheroes I'd caught strutting their stuff out there. With my life and the kids' on the line, I decided to follow those going to the shelter.

Down in the shelter, I made a more startling discovery than my inhuman transformation or gender change; I was pain free. And because of that, I welcomed those who clung to my back.

All night long, I kept an entertaining vigilance up for my little monkeys...

* * *

Afterword

by Trismegistus Shandy

* * *

This is an experiment in a new kind of mixed tape anthology. Thanks to Silver for the suggestion to try doing a shared world anthology instead of the usual anthology with no unifying theme other than TG.

The next tape won't be in this format; submit TG stories of any kind in any setting, up to 4,000 words though preferably less than 2,500, to [email protected] anytime in the next few months. We have no deadline this time; we'll put together a tape whenever we have enough submissions to make it worthwhile. Be sure to include an About the Author blurb to go after your story.

If you want to write more stories in this setting, the framing story (“Come as You Would Be”) is released under a Creative Commons-Attribution-Share Alike license, so feel free to do so. MrSimple will be separately posting a novelette in this setting which was too long to fit the tape guidelines. To see the shared universe guidelines and timeline which I shared with the tape authors, see this Google docs link.

As always, thanks to all the contributors, including some who tried but couldn't get a story together in time for Halloween. Hopefully we'll hear from them in future tapes.



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