When You Wish Upon a Star

When You Wish Upon a Star

By SammyC

©2023 SammyC

(Author’s Note: This story features characters from “Painted from Memory” and “Princess Butterfly.” It is bookended in the narrative voice of Joanne Prentiss and Philippa Chang narrates the central section.)

“Promise you won’t laugh or think I’m crazy—”

I looked up at Philippa Chang Flaherty, my right eye moving away from the eyepiece of her husband Paul’s 90mm refractor telescope. Following her instructions, I had been trying to locate Saturn in the late September night sky above the backyard of their house in Los Feliz, Los Angeles. 52 degrees, south by southwest, she told me.

“Why? What—”

“I was abducted by aliens…in college…Paul was too—”

“Is this the sci-fi project you and Paul are working on? Alastair mentioned something GlobalNet might take over from Chris Nolan or was it Ridley Scott?”

“Well, no, I confess I wasn’t really abducted. It was a dream…I think.”

“And Paul was abducted along with you…in that dream?”

We walked back into the house. Philippa’s 20-month-old daughter Clarissa had been put to bed hours before. Paul was in New York for a couple of days, meeting with Robert De Niro about some future project. After a pizza dinner, we had moved to the backyard to enjoy a glass of Chianti and gaze at the stars. I tried to discuss the notes Alastair had given us by zoom meeting from London, where he was executive producing a BBC co-production with GlobalNet, on the script for my semi-autobiographical transwoman film. But Philippa, weary of shop talk after a full day slaving over a computer keyboard, preferred talking about her time in Tuscany with Annie Flaherty, before Annie married Philippa’s brother Christopher and, more significantly, when she was still Philip Chang in body if not mind.

A bit bored by her descriptions of the Uffizi Gallery in Firenze and the works of Botticelli, Fra Angelico, and Michelangelo, I noticed Paul’s telescope sitting on the grass for the first time. That’s when Philippa tried to point out Saturn in the night sky to me.

“It was a September night just like tonight when Paul and I were juniors at Stanford,” she began, pouring more wine into our glasses as we settled into the comfy couch in her living room. Linda Ronstadt singing “When You Wish Upon a Star” was in the cd player.

“I had been in a few classes with Paul through our first two years since we were both English majors but, our junior year, I moved into a 3-person dorm suite with him and a real dweeb named Ron Lofgren. He was a problem. But enough about him…”


Philippa’s Dream

My two years at Stanford had been miserable. Although I hadn’t admitted to myself that I was transgender, I was convinced that I was a social misfit. I just didn’t know why I felt compelled to think of myself as a girl trapped in a boy’s body. My parents were no help. My father was the most successful radiologist in Southern California, my mother was an attorney for the Legal Aid Foundation. I think they assumed I was gay, which didn’t bother their liberal beliefs. But I wasn’t gay. I’m not gay.

I had been living in the suite with Paul and Ron for a month. Paul was very nice to me but we weren’t friends, just very cordial frequent classmates and now suitemates. He was a very popular guy on campus. Having a cousin who was a famous TV and movie star (Annie Flaherty) helped. And being a handsome fellow with piercing brown eyes and dimpled cheeks (both upper and lower as I would later discover) was the topper. He dated a lot of beautiful co-eds.

So it was a surprise when I went up to the roof of our dormitory to get some night air, dressed in my usual hoodie and black jeans, to see Paul peering through a telescope at the sky.

“No hot date tonight?”

“Oh, Phil, it’s you. No, my car’s in the shop and Olga—”

I snorted a laugh at the name.

“Olga has an exam in Bio on Monday. She’s actually studying.”

“That’s what she said—”

“Hmmm? Whaddya mean?”


“So, why are you on the roof, may I ask?”

“Listen, can you talk to Ron? Maybe he’ll believe you.” I raised my voice. “I’m a boy, not a girl! Tell him to stop hitting on me. Please.”

“Ron thinks your name is Phyllis and you want to be called Phil because you hate that name. Look, if I didn’t know you from class, I’d think you were a girl too.”

“My hair isn’t that long!”

“It’s not just your hair. It’s…it’s your voice, your face, the way you walk. It’s…really feminine. Hey, I’m not a bigot. If you’re gay—”

“I’m not gay, Paul.” I turned away, afraid Paul would see my eyes tearing up even in the darkness of late evening on a dimly lit rooftop.

“I’m sorry, Phil. I just assumed. I’ll talk to Ron. Fat chance he believes me though. The guy’s a horny cauldron of hormones. He’s probably still a virgin.”

Still facing away, I was stung by Paul’s last remark. After all, Ron and I were in the same boat. Except mine was threatening to capsize.

“What are you looking at? Don’t say the sky. I mean specifically?”

“I’m surveying the part of the sky where Saturn should be at this point in the year. And there it is! Come and take a look.” He moved away from the telescope and beckoned me with his right hand.

“Is this telescope yours?” I put my right eye in position.

“I’ve had it since high school. Astronomy’s sort of a hobby with me. My dad’s a physicist at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. When I was 15, I thought I wanted to be an astronomer.”

“So you’re from LA. I grew up in Encino—”

“Valley girl, eh?”

“Stop it, Paul. It’s not funny. Hey, I can see the rings! They’re beautiful.”

“Take a good long look. I’m bushed. I’m going back downstairs in a few.”

That’s when I saw it. I had turned to Paul to say good night. It hovered in the sky several hundred feet above the roof. A glowing saucer-shaped thing, the size of a 16-wheeler. We both stared at it for what seemed like minutes but was probably only a few seconds. I opened my mouth to…shriek? Scream? But whatever it was, was drowned out by a loud hum. We were levitated into the air, drawn toward the object, our bodies rigid. I could see out of the corner of my eye that Paul was similarly paralyzed. Then I blacked out.

I came to sometime later. I was lying on a mattress-like platform in a feature-less room of indeterminate size. The walls glowed with a soft light that reminded me of twilight on the beach back home. Paul was still asleep on a platform a few feet away from me. I was about to call to him to wake him when I realized there was someone else in the room. Intently staring at me. She, for she certainly looked like a female, appeared to be a human girl of ten, dressed in a simple sheath of some blue fabric. What was disturbing were her eyes. They were the largest blue eyes I had ever seen. Like an anime character. In fact, she resembled a cartoon more so than an actual human being.

“Where am I? Are you an alien?” She didn’t even blink. Nor uttered a sound. Perhaps she didn’t understand English. For no explicable reason at all I tried Spanish. “¿Donde estoy? ¿Eres un extraterrestre?” No response.

Suddenly the feature-less wall dilated and a human-sized thing that resembled a hairless Belgian Malinois walked into the room on its hind legs. It was wearing a brilliant white lab coat with an actual pocket protector on the left front, holding a stylus in one human-like five-fingered hand and a tablet-looking device in the other.

“I see you’ve met my pet, Rin-Rin. She’s very sweet. Quite good with alien species.”

“You…you speak perfect English!” And in a feminine tone of voice to boot.

“Of course. A rather primitive language but just barely adequate for simple communication. My name is, or should I say sounds like in your language, Miss Wolverton. I’m an exo-ethnologist.”

“You study humans?”

“I’ve been on-site for two of your Earth years. Another four years and I’ll qualify for my doctorate. We’re very thorough on my planet.”

“And where is that, may I ask?”

“It’s not important.” She looked intently at her tablet, which was pointed at me. After a long stretch of minutes, she seemed puzzled by whatever data she had just digested. “Your brain structure is that of a female of your species and yet you are physically a male. Why haven’t you corrected your situation? Oh well, I suppose it’s expected of a civilization as primitive as yours.”

“I... I don’t have a ‘situation’ as you call it. I’m a boy and I’m o.k. with it. Really.”

“The data says otherwise. Anyway, the results of my experiment would be more viable if you were your appropriate gender.”
“Well, that’s life. Now can you return me and Paul to our dorm rooms? I promise I won’t tell anyone about this. Not that they’d believe me anyway.”

She reached into a side pocket and took out something that resembled a Buck Rogers ray gun and pointed it at me.

“I’m returning you now. Word to your mother.”

A flash of blinding light stunned me as I slipped into unconsciousness.

I woke up in my dorm room. I looked over at the clock on my nightstand. It read 9:00 AM. For a moment, I panicked, thinking I was late for my morning class in the Modern English Novel. But, relieved, I remembered it was Monday. My first class isn’t until 10:30. I decided to get up anyway. I could use a little breakfast. I threw off my blanket, sat up, and tried to find my slippers. I looked down and saw a pair of pink bunny slippers. It must be Ron pulling what he thinks is a practical joke. Regardless, I put them on and left my room, still half-asleep, making a beeline for the bathroom.

Yawning, I knocked on the door of the bathroom.

“Hey, I’m bursting with piss here. How long you gonna be?” I didn’t mean to squeak that out in a soprano tone but I chalked that up to being half-awake.

The door opened. It was that dweeb, Ron. He was wiping the shaving cream off his face, a toothbrush in the side of his mouth.

“Well, well. Now that’s more like it, Phyllis. I’ve been trying to guess what you really looked like underneath all those unisex clothes. Pretty, pretty good.”

“What are you taking ab…” I looked down at myself and gasped. I was wearing a black lace baby doll nightgown. I was showing a good deal of cleavage. Cleavage?! I tried to cover myself by crossing my arms.

“Hey, eyes up here, buster. Get out of my way!” I pushed Ron out of the doorway and rushed inside the bathroom.

“I’m going down to the dining hall. I’ll save you a seat…babe.”

I slammed the door shut and locked it.

“Fuck off!”

There was a mirror on the inside of the bathroom door. I shucked the nightgown off and was amazed by what had happened to my body. I was anatomically a woman! Unable to resist, I felt myself up. If I had a third hand, I would have slapped myself for being fresh. Before I might get myself off, I turned my attention to my face. It was still recognizable as Phil Chang’s face but there was a feminine nuance to every plane and curve. I was really cute, damn it! And my hair had more volume. There was a bounce to it as I turned my head from side to side. I puckered my lips and gave myself a kiss in the mirror. Ohh you kid.

What I first believed was a horrific nightmare inspired by looking through Paul’s telescope was now undeniably reality. That dog-like alien, Miss Wolverton, really changed me into a girl. I’ve got to talk to Paul. I hope she didn’t change him into a girl as well. He has a film class that ends at 10. Let me change into my usual boy clothes and meet up with him. Maybe we can figure something out.

Imagine my shock when I looked in my closet. All of my clothes had been replaced with a wardrobe that would’ve made Annie Flaherty, Paul’s cousin, or Taylor Swift proud. Designer outfits for the glamorous co-ed. After a bit of dithering, I selected what I thought was the most unisex outfit I could put together: a white sweatshirt with a big pink heart on the front, skinny jeans, and white platform Nikes. O.K. I added some cute earrings and a tiny shoulder bag. And a little lippie. But that’s all!


With my stomach rumbling from skipping breakfast, I made it inside the McMurtry Building just in time to catch Paul’s film class discharge. I had classes with some of the students that sauntered out of the classroom. No one recognized me, thank God. Finally, Paul appeared, talking to someone I’d never seen.

“Paul! It’s me. We have to talk!”

“Another one of your shorties, Paul? Man, you’re B.M.O.C. What’s your secret, dude?”

“It helps to shower once in a while.”

I was standing directly in front of Paul but the questioning look on his face told me he didn’t recognize me.

“It’s me, Phil.” I grabbed his arm and took him aside, away from the middle of the hallway.

“I’m sure we’ve never met, miss.”

“Cut it out, Paul. You were with me when they abducted us. I’m so relieved they didn’t change your gender too.”

“Wait a minute. How do you know about the dream I had last night.”

“It wasn’t a dream, Paul. They used some kind of tractor beam on us and brought us onto their ship. It’s an alien race of dog people. And they keep human children as pets! They changed me into a girl!!”

The few remaining students in the hallway were looking our way, beginning to become alarmed at my raised voice.

“Phil? Is it really you? Can’t be. You’re a girl! With tits! You mean it really happened? They really abducted us?”

At that moment, a bearded man in horn-rimmed glasses walked up to us, smiling broadly.

“Paul, who is this? Miss, are you a student here in the film program? I haven’t seen you in any of my classes.”

“Er, Professor Pace, this is my roommate Phil…lis Chang. She’s an English major.”

Professor Pace took my right hand and held it in both of his.

“Well, Phyllis, nice to meet you. I hope I’m not being too forward but have you ever done any modeling?”

Paul interjected, “Not likely, Professor.”

“No? Forgive me but you have a very special look. And that outfit shouts a je ne sais quoi quality very rare among coeds these days. May I make you a proposition?”

“She’s…uh…not dating anyone currently. She’s really into getting good grades.”

“Paul, Paul. Really. Do you take me for some sort of philanderer? I’m not asking her out. I’ve been given the assignment of shooting all the media for the Stanford website and associated publications. Phyllis is the perfect model for the new campaign. She’s beautiful, wears clothing splendidly, and is obviously very smart. After all, she’s a Stanford student! And I’m a happily married man. Tsk, tsk.”

“Gosh, I don’t know what to say. It’s very flattering and all but I’ve been a student here for two years and no one ever asked to take pictures of me.”

“Not even when you got slashed on your forehead by an errant frisbee last Spring,” Paul smirked.

“Well, it doesn’t seem to have left a scar. Good thing. Wouldn’t want anything to mar that lovely visage. Look, here’s my card. That’s my office number and my cell number as well. Uh, maybe you should keep to the office number. My wife…she’s kind of excitable. Ahem, hope to hear from you very soon. See you next week Paul.” He walked away, whistling some Broadway show tune.

“Come back to the dorm around 1. We can talk then and split a hero sandwich. What do you want? Meatball parm or Italian?” Paul asked me.
“I don’t know why but I think I’d prefer a Quinoa Salad with Avocado dressing.”

I had two classes that day: Elizabethan Drama and 19th Century World History. No one seemed to be surprised at the way I was dressed. I guess they all thought I was a girl all along. Just an awful dresser. One girl told me with a snark that she had been holding out hope I was a lesbian. Now, it seems, that hope was unfounded. Our History professor walked by and admonished her for edging on sexual harassment. I blushed, embarrassed, and ran off as quickly as I could. That was when I realized I should have worn a bra.

Other than enjoying a nice salad, nothing much came of the lunch Paul and I had in our dorm suite. Ron wasn’t there so we felt free to discuss our, er, my ridiculous situation. Since we didn’t know how to contact Miss Wolverton, there was no way to change the facts as they stood. I was a woman now…and forever?

“Don’t jump me but, honestly, are you really that upset that you’re a woman now?”

“Well, to be perfectly honest, people have really treated me nice today. Much better than the way they treated Phil. Phyllis, on the other hand, is a star! Guess I can’t help being beautiful. It’s a curse…”

“A dirty old man practically propositions you and you get a really inflated sense of self. The way I look at it, you’re still Philip inside.”

“Did you like Philip, the old me?”

“Yeah, bit of a goof but I thought he was a good dude.”

“I don’t like being called Phyllis though.”

“See! Ron got one thing right about you.” I threw some crumbled feta at him. We laughed together and I really started to question whether I was upset at being turned into a woman.

We were sitting in the living room of our suite, watching The Giants play The Dodgers on TV. Ron and Paul were engrossed in the game. Me, I was stewing in my own thoughts. I’d never been interested in sports anyway. My own brother Christopher used to pretend we weren’t related whenever I’d tag along when he played sandlot baseball during the summer or pick-up basketball at the Encino Park public courts. He told mom I threw like a girl and dribbled like a duck. As you can see, my brother and I weren’t very close. To this day, he only tolerates my presence because it was through me that he met his future wife, Paul’s cousin, the movie star, Annie Flaherty. I never saw what she sees in him.

Presently, Olga, Paul’s putative girlfriend dropped by. Olga is what Ron would call a ‘smoke show.’ Tall, leggy, blonde, model slim with china blue eyes, she was the girl every guy on campus salivated after. And Paul was dating her.

“That Bio exam was a bear but I think I aced it. Sorry about canceling last week. I really needed to bone up for that test.” She sat on Paul’s lap, obscuring his view of the TV screen.

“I could’ve helped you ‘bone up’ for that exam, Olga. I know a lot about biology. The important stuff, that is.”

“You’re a creep, Ron. Oh, my god! Is that Phil? You go, girl! Paul, don’t you think Phil…can we start calling you Phyllis instead? Don’t you think that’s such a better look for her?”

“My name isn’t Phyllis.”

“It can’t be Phil. That’s a boy’s name and you are certainly not a boy. Not the way you look today! What should we call you if your full name’s not Phyllis?”

“I never liked the name Ronald either. Everyone calls me Ron. Even my mother.”

“Its…it’s Philip…pa. Philippa. My brother couldn’t pronounce it so everyone started calling me just Phil. I guess it’s what I’m used to all my life.”

“Sounds very British. Very posh. Don’t you think so, Paul?”

“Babe, can you move over just a bit. I can’t see the game.”

Olga jumped up and pulled Paul to his feet.

“Stupid ballgame. Let’s go out and get something to nosh. I’m still hungry. I only had a salad for dinner.”

“Was it Quinoa? I love Quinoa with avocado dressing.”

“What about Phil? Maybe she can come with us?”

“I’m sure she’d rather stay and watch the ballgame with Ron.” She winked at me. It was a ludicrously comic stage gesture.

“Don’t worry, Paul. I’ll keep Philippa entertained while you guys are out. We have so much to talk about now that she’s turned a new page.” I squirmed visibly in my seat and looked imploringly at Paul. I mouthed “Don’t leave me with this creep.”

“See! Let’s go, Paul. I’m feeling peckish, daahhling.” Shrugging his shoulders, Paul walked out with Olga clinging to his arm.

I got up, sprinted to my room, locked the door, and yelled, “Stay away, Ron!”

Tuesday’s classes went smoothly. Again, students and faculty alike just shrugged their shoulders at my dramatic transformation. The guys stared at me now and again, turning their heads when I caught them. More than a few of the girls complimented me on my outfit. I decided to revel in my newfound femininity and wore a crop top that displayed just a sliver of skin above the waistband of my knee-length wrap skirt. I did opt for black Doc Martens though.


Paul and I had agreed to lunch outdoors at Meyer Green, a landscaped open space with curving walkways and gentle grassy slopes located on the campus where Meyer Library used to stand. There are benches along the upper walkway. I made a concession to Paul and we dined on slices of cheese pizza. He’d driven into Palo Alto to pick up the pizza from Pizza My Heart on University Avenue. So sweet of him.

Just as Paul left to go to his 2PM class, that girl from my History seminar approached. It seemed she’d been hovering nearby, waiting for Paul to leave.

“Hi, Phyllis?”

“Philippa, actually. I prefer Phil. You’re…”

“Meryl. Meryl Wilton. My mother is a huge Meryl Streep fan.”

“Hey, Meryl. What can I do you for?”

“I wanted to apologize. Yesterday. I didn’t mean it to sound the way it came out.”

“No problem. I didn’t take offense. Professor Swanson jumped to conclusions, that’s all.”

“Good. Well, that clears the air between us.”

“Sure. See you in class next week.” She turned halfway around, then turned back.

“Phil, are you busy tonight?”

“Are you asking me for a date? No offense but I don’t swing that way.”

“No, no. Not a date. I’m inviting you to hear me perform at Coho. It’s open mic night and I’m sort of a regular there. As my guest, you can get in free. I just want to see some friendly faces in the crowd. We’re friendly, aren’t we?”

I laughed. “Of course, we’re friendly. O.K. When do I show up?”

“I’ll pick you up at 7. Just be in front of your building. It’s a 5-minute walk to Coho. You’re in Governor’s Corner. I looked you up. See you then.”

I immediately thought about what I’d be wearing. Something casual. Coffee house boho? I’ll have to take a deep dive into my closet.

It was a cool, crisp night so I decided to wear my leather jacket on top of my Vandal Savages t-shirt and black denim jeans. I kept my Doc Martens on. Meryl showed up precisely at 7, guitar case in hand. She was wearing a similar outfit, except her t-shirt had that famous Dylan poster with the kaleidoscopic hair emblazoned on it. We walked briskly, giggling that we looked like twin sisters from another mother. Along the way across the campus, Meryl drew my attention to an odd sight: a young girl, no more than 10, walking a large dog on a leash. It seemed the dog was controlling the girl, not the other way around. As I watched, the girl’s face came into view. I gasped and almost stumbled.

“You all right, Phil?”

“Yes, it’s nothing. Must have stepped on a rock or something. Let’s cross the street here. It’s a shortcut to Coho.”

Those giant blue eyes seemed to glow in the growing darkness of twilight. I shivered again but tried to calm myself. Meryl pointed at the entrance to Coho. The student coffee house was already filling up with music lovers. Or espresso lovers.


Meryl was slated to perform fifth out of a lineup of 10 acts. So, for an hour we sat at one of the back tables, sampling Coho’s espresso and tiramisu. It was pretty good. Not the best I’d ever had. Bricolage in Encino where I grew up had the best tiramisu in the San Fernando Valley. At least that’s what mom always says. We chatted about our History class. She clued me in on some of the classmates I’d never really gotten to know – we all had different majors. But Meryl seemed to know everyone. A veritable gadfly of the Stanford campus. I told her about Professor Pace asking me to model for the school website. She laughed. Almost too loudly. The performer on stage almost flubbed a line and everyone turned to look at Meryl, who slumped down in her seat. I moved my chair over to shield her.

“I was going to say you should accept the gig. I mean, you’re beautiful. No, I mean it. Look at you. Once you started presenting better, men were bound to finally notice. You’re the kind of hot, super-smart co-ed that Stanford would die to have represent them. Think of all the horny billionaire’s sons applying to enter the college after they see you.”

“You make it sound so tawdry.”

“Eh, you’ve got it, flaunt it. And don’t worry about Pace. His bark is way worse than his bite. He’s got a roving eye but his wife has him by the balls. He’ll behave himself, outside of leering at you now and again.”

“I’ll call him tomorrow. His office line. He did say not to call his cell. His wife is excitable.” I laughed but quickly remembered to cover my mouth as Meryl did the same.

When Meryl finally got up on stage, she surprised me. I didn’t expect her to be that good. But her singing and especially her fingerstyle picking on guitar were first-rate. She had undeniable talent. Her second number was a cover of Dylan’s “You’re Going to Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” The crowd gave her a rousing ovation. Delighted at the audience’s response, she leaped off the stage and threw her arms around me, hugging me tightly, chortling her joy. She kissed me. It took me by surprise. It was nice though. I kissed her back.

Walking back to my dorm, Meryl asked me why I suddenly decided to ditch my unisex look and embrace my ‘hotness.’

“I guess I was tired of living a lie.”

“What do you mean?”

“For most of my life, I pretended to be a boy. Had to be a boy. Everyone I knew, my parents, my brothers, friends, my teachers wanted me to be a boy. At least, that’s how I saw it.”

“That’s twisted, man.”

“I woke up Monday morning and decided to be who I want to be, who I was meant to be. A girl!”

“That simple, huh?”

“You’re gay. When did you realize you were gay?”

“As far back as I can remember, I guess. Three or four years old. I knew I wasn’t like most other girls.”

“The same here. But it took me almost 20 years to emerge from my cocoon of mistaken gender.”

“Look! What’s that light in the sky. See it?”

I looked in the direction Meryl was pointing. It was a glowing globe, half the size of a full moon. Moving slowly across the sky above us. Yes, above us. I could tell it was hundreds of feet above. It was not a celestial object. Or an airplane. I shivered again. Then, abruptly, it disappeared.

“It’s gone! I think we just saw a UFO, Phil. Wow, how exciting. Do you think it’s a sign? You know, from the cosmos.”

“Now what do you mean?”

“The universe is telling me to drop out. Go and turn pro. Maybe in San Francisco or L.A. Maybe even New York City. I could get a recording contract.”

“Well, you’re certainly talented enough. But, Meryl, I’d give it some real thought before you did something that drastic. Getting a Stanford degree isn’t something to just cavalierly throw away.”

We were in front of my dorm building. As luck would have it, Ron Lofgren chose that moment to come back to his dorm room. He nodded at us as he passed by and smirked as he pulled the door open. The little creep. I’ll have to hear his stupid comments upstairs.

“Thanks for coming, Phil. You inspired me to my best performance ever—”

“I wouldn’t say that—”

“No, you gave me that extra shot of adrenaline. I looked at you in the audience all through my set. Just seeing your face—” She grabbed my face and planted a long, languorous kiss right on my lips. I felt her tongue. I reciprocated with mine.

“Get a room, ladies!” Some troll shouted as he walked past us. His buddies giggled like 12-year-olds. Stupid little boys.

When I entered the suite five minutes later, Paul and Ron were watching a basketball game on TV. Without saying anything to them, I floated toward my room, my head in the clouds, still buzzed by Meryl’s lollapalooza of a kiss.

“Must have been some date from what I saw. When should I expect to receive the wedding invitation?” Ron laughed raucously but Paul wasn’t laughing. He had gotten up and was two paces behind me. I turned around to address him.

“Paul, can you guys just leave me alone. You more than anyone should know what I’m going through—”

“My dad called about an hour ago. We’re in a pickle, Phil.”


“He heard from some of his buddies at JPL that military intelligence wants to talk to us tomorrow on campus. He asked me what we’d done. I couldn’t begin to explain to him. I can’t even explain it to myself.”

“You think? Look at me. How do we explain this!” I waved both hands down my body.

“Is there such a thing as quickie sex change operations?”

“Oh, fuck, Paul, you’re useless!”

Early Wednesday morning, Paul and I received texts from the Dean’s office requesting our presence at a meeting with Federal agents in the Main Quad’s Building 170. Precisely at 10AM. My first thought was I’d probably have to spend the rest of my life being poked and prodded by military doctors, a veritable prisoner on some army base or even Area 51! My second thought was: what to wear to this interrogation? Obviously not something casual but perhaps a classic two-piece business suit? And sensible heels? Put my hair up or leave it long and add some waves?

“Stop thinking like a woman, Phil! These dudes won’t care what you’re wearing.”

“Yes, but I do. Mother taught me a lady should always dress properly for every occasion.”

“Oh, shut up! We’re going to be stuck in some military base or hospital for God knows how long. They’ll stick long tubes and shit up our various and sundry orifices!”

“I don’t know. They’ll probably let you go after they examine you. Nothing about you has changed. But me? I’m fucked.”

Ron emerged from his room, yawning, and trying to sort out his bedhead.

“Oooh, do tell. I know you’re the fuckee. Who’s the fucker?”

I retreated into my room and slammed the door.

Paul and I were approaching the Main Quad, heading for Building 170, when I stopped to straighten out the seams on my sheer tights.
“Hold my purse, Paul.” He reluctantly took the shoulder bag from me.

“Too bad you’ll never get to model for Pace. I have to admit you’d look stunning on the website.”

“Thank you very much, kind sir. Are the seams straight now?”

“Uh, oh, yeah. They’re straight.”

“You weren’t looking at my stockings, Paul! You were peeking down the front of my blouse!”

“Hey, how could I help but see? You were bent over like that.”

I was about to further admonish Paul when I caught sight of a little girl walking a large dog some distance away, just outside the Main Quad. She turned her head my way and those nonhuman, enormous blue eyes seemed to be speaking to me.

“Paul, look! It’s that alien dog thing!”

Paul turned to look but the pair of aliens had disappeared.

“I don’t see anything. Come on, it’s almost 10.”

We sat waiting in a small conference room. Surprisingly, no one from the university was in the room with us. The assistant who ushered us in told us she knew nothing about who was meeting with us or why. 15 minutes passed before two nondescript men in black suits carrying briefcases finally entered.

“Good morning. You are Paul Raymond Flaherty and Philip Rowan Chang?”

We both nodded and answered “Yes” tentatively, almost shyly.

“I am Agent Myers and this is my associate, Agent Sturges.” They took their seats at the conference table across from us and began pulling laptops from their briefcases.

“Are you FBI, CIA, military intelligence?” Paul asked.

“The specific government agency we’re from is classified. But we are part of the intelligence network that includes all those agencies you named.”

“My mother works for The Legal Aid Foundation. She could get you on violating our civil rights—”

“Phil! Stifle. (Sotto voce) Let’s not antagonize these dudes.”

“I assure you we don’t to do anything of the kind, Mr.…uh…Miss Chang.”

“Okay, but just keep that in mind. She’s pretty fierce with a legal brief.”

Agent Sturges piped up. “We know all about your mother, Miss Chang. And your father, Dr. Kenneth Chang, leading radiologist in Southern California. As well as your father, Mr. Flaherty, astrophysicist at JPL.”

“My mom’s a librarian…” Paul interjected, proudly.

“Now, let’s get down to brass tacks. An incident occurred over the past weekend. Saturday night to be exact, at approximately 11:12 PM. This is footage taken by an Air Force E-86 on a routine reconnaissance sortie returning to Travis Base.”

Agent Sturges turned his laptop toward us and ran the video showing Paul and me being “tractor beamed” toward the alien ship.

“Nice camera work. That must be from a 1000mm telephoto lens. Those babies go for like 50K, even at discount—”

“We are aware you’re a film minor, Mr. Flaherty. We’re more interested in what happened to you after this. It appears you were taken aboard the alien craft. Please tell us, in as much detail as you can recall, the sequence of events that followed.”

“Why didn’t try to rescue us?” I asked.

“That’s not the protocol, Miss Chang. It wouldn’t have been a good outcome if we had tried…for you two or the crew on that E-86. You must realize these…exo-biologicals…have technology far beyond our capabilities. You’re the proof of that yourself, no?”

Agent Sturges prompted us. “Now tell us what you recall from that night. We’ll record it…starting…now.”

Paul explained to the agents that he had very little to report to them since he was unconscious from the moment the tractor beam hooked us until he woke up in his dorm room on Monday morning. Myers and Sturges exchanged disappointed expressions but their faces lit up when I began my account.

When I described the dog-like being named Miss Wolverton, they both nodded knowingly.

“Sirius C?” muttered Agent Sturges.

“Doesn’t exist,” answered Agent Myers. “Possibly Sirius B but doubtful.”

Myers interrupted me. “Now, Miss Chang. Are you telling us that you are anatomically a female now? As a result of this…uh…ray gun that the being brandished?”

“Yes. I’m not wearing a bra and panties because I like cross-dressing. All my equipment is now female—”

“Those boys at Grant Medical will need to look at this in depth.” Sturges nodded slowly.

“I don’t want to be studied in some military hospital. It’d be a life sentence.”

“Don’t you want to find a way to reverse this…this procedure? You must be devastated. After 20 years as a male—”

“I’m beginning to think she likes her new body,” chimed in Paul. I shot him a glare.

“At the very least, you ought to get a complete physical. Who knows what might be the hidden consequences of this alien tomfoolery.”

Myers and Sturges started packing up.

“We’d like to escort you two to Travis AFB for a further, more extensive debriefing and complete, thorough physicals. We have a car waiting outside. Please.” Myers beckoned with his right hand as he hefted his briefcase in his left.

Reluctantly, we exited the conference room.

“I guess we’ll be famous, Phil. Can’t wait for the episode on us for “Ancient Aliens.”

Sturges, from behind us, shook his head. “Not likely. We can’t let anyone outside of your closest family members know about this. This definitely falls under National Security protocols.”

It was an hour and a half drive to Travis Air Force Base via Interstate 880. I started whimpering softly when we passed through San Jose, thinking that my life was over. They’d probably let Paul go after they confirmed he knew nothing and had nothing done to him. They’d probably have him swear to an oath of secrecy. Never a word about what happened to us. It bothered me that he’d probably go back to school, graduate, maybe go to grad school for filmmaking, and, worst of all, marry that dodo Olga. Why did I care? But I did and I started to tear up.

“It’ll be all right, Phil.” Paul put his arm around me. Then wiped away the tears starting to run down my cheeks. “They’ll find a cure. They’ve got CRISPR gene editing that’s pretty advanced now. They could turn you back to a guy in maybe 5 or 10 years. The research is really accelerating.” I burst into a torrent of tears.

Paul took my face in his hands and kissed my forehead.

“Shhh. Shhh. It’ll be o.k.”

I looked into Paul’s warm brown eyes and kissed him on the lips. He kissed me back.

“Hey, you’re steaming up the windows,” laughed Sturges from the passenger seat up front.

We were on the outskirts of San Ramon, some 50 miles south of Travis AFB, when the sky darkened above the car. The shadow moved ahead of us until we could clearly see what was casting it. There was no doubt it was the same craft that had been the unwanted interloper in our lives on Saturday night.

“Rick, it’s turned around. Facing us now, matching our speed.”

“There’s an exit about a quarter mile farther. Maybe I can—”

A flash of blinding light and I blacked out.

Sometime later, I don’t know how long, Paul and I found ourselves walking along the side of I-880. The car and Agents Myers and Sturges were no where in sight. Both our phones were dead. We could only guess it was mid-afternoon by the height of the sun in the sky.

“They did it again.”

“I hope that dog thing doesn’t harm them.”

“Maybe just for shits and grins, she’ll change their gender—”

“Shut up, Paul. Not funny.”

“Sorry. Look, let’s see if we can hitch a ride back to Stanford. Thumbs out.”

Waving his arms and pointing his thumb as several cars whizzed by, Paul came up empty. No takers. This went on for a good half-hour. Then I came up with an idea.

“Let me try.”

“Unless you’ve got a bigger thumb than me, it’s not going to work. It’s too dangerous to pick up hitchhikers. Every driver knows that. Guess we’ll have to find a gas station or bus stop closer to town.”

I inched away from the side of the road, lifted my skirt to about mid-thigh, and kind of dangled my high-heeled, dainty foot. About two minutes later, a pick-up truck with a cargo bed full of turnips stopped on a dime a foot away from me.

“Need a ride, miss?” the driver, a beefy middle-aged man in denim overalls, asked.

“Yes, thank you, mister. My friend and I are trying to get back to Stanford University.” I beckoned Paul to come out of the shrubbery. The driver seemed a little disappointed but he opened the door to the cab. “Hop on in. I can take you as far as San Jose. You can catch a bus from there.”

“We appreciate it, sir,” Paul exclaimed as I climbed in. Paul followed and shut the door behind him. It was a tight fit and the air was a little too close but it beat walking for miles. The driver, Eddie, engaged us in some chit chat. I was trying to come up with an explanation of how we ended up hitching a ride in the middle of nowhere but, strangely enough, Eddie never asked. When the conversation died out, I was wishing I had a harmonica and Paul could sing every song that driver ever knew. Eddie settled for tuning to KBAY (Bay Country 94.5) and filling the cab with the sound of Dierks Bentley’s “Different for Girls.” I’ll second that emotion.

True to his word, Eddie dropped us off at the VTA bus stop at Santa Clara & 5th in San Jose. Two bus rides and an hour and a half later, we disembarked on Quarry Road right in front of The Psychiatry Building. How appropriate. A short walk later, Paul and I dragged ourselves into our dorm suite. The clock on the living room wall read a quarter to 8. Sitting underneath the clock, in his usual seat on the couch, Ron looked up from his cup of ramen noodles. He pointed his chopsticks at us.

“Where have you two been all day? And you…don’t you think Meryl will find out you’ve been two-timing her?” He cackled at that last quip.

“Just stuff it, Ron. She’s had a tough day.”

“Poor baby. The world is just her oyster. First, I thought she was asexual, then she blossoms into a hottie who’s as straight as the day is long, then she’s dyking it up for all the world to see with a lesbo folksinger, and now she’s bi again, burning the candle at both ends. All of this in the space of less than a week!”

“Let’s go to my room, Phil. We don’t need to hear this.” We went into Paul’s room and slammed the door shut.

“Hey, just so you know. I’m always up for a three-way!” Ron punctuated that with another sickening cackle.

Later that evening, Paul and I were finishing our meal downstairs in the dining hall as my cell phone was being charged with Paul’s portable charger (he’d forgotten to take it with him that morning) when I decided to accept Professor Pace’s invitation to model for the school website.

“You can’t call him until tomorrow. Remember? He said not to call him at home. His wife?”

Picking up my phone, I punched in his cell number. “Pish posh. His wife. I’m not trying to steal her husband away. I don’t like older men with beards anyway.”

“Just tell her that straightaway.”

“Hello. Pace residence.”

“Oh, hello, Mrs. Pace. This is Philippa Chang. I’m a student at the university and Professor Pace asked me if I’d be interested in modeling for the school website. You know, the project he’s doing for all their media—”

“Well, Philippa, is it? He hadn’t told me about you. He has been looking for someone who might best represent the student body. Just a moment, he’s coming to the phone…”

“Miss Chang! Good to hear from you! (Sotto voce) You should have called me at my office. My wife is…excitable. (Normal voice) So, have you decided?”

“I’d love to model for you, Professor Pace. When do you need me?”

“Oh, wonderful, Miss Chang! Well, we’re planning to do the shoot on Friday. We’ve got the equipment, the crew, and clearances for all the locations. Now, we just need our star—you! Show up at McMurtry bright and early Friday morning at 9AM.”

“Should I bring anything?”

“Just your sweet self, my dear. Good night.” He disconnected. I looked up and saw a concerned look on Paul’s face.

“I’m going with you.”

“You don’t have to, Paul. It’s not like he’s gonna try to rape me in broad daylight.”

“He’s the type who’d try something funny in your trailer.”

“There’s a trailer?”

“You didn’t think you’d be changing outfits in the middle of the campus with everyone watching, did you?”

“Oh, I guess you’re right. I’ve never done modeling before.” I got up from the table and slung my purse over my shoulder.

“Where you going?”

“Unlike you, I’m actually here to get a degree. I have to catch up on my reading assignments. Been kind of busy this week, doncha know.”

It was a sun-splashed day on Friday morning. Seasonably warm for the last day of September in the Bay Area. A light breeze wafting in from the ocean added to the delightful milieu on my first day as a super-model. Paul was right behind me as I stepped into the small trailer that was parked off the Main Quad. Professor Pace had sent me directly to the trailer so I could get my makeup and hair done and change into my first outfit. A small, slightly chubby woman in her mid-forties turned to greet me, a hairbrush in her right hand.

“Philippa? Hi, I’m Brenda Pace. Darren’s wife. I’m your stylist for today’s shoot. Please have a seat.” I sat down and looked at myself in the mirror.

“I must look a mess. You’ve got your work cut out for you.”

“Oh, no, sweetie. It doesn’t look like I can do much to improve on things. You’re such a fresh-faced beauty. I betcha you have to beat the boys off with a stick.”

“And I have the bruises to prove it,” Paul quipped. Brenda looked at him, considered a thought, then asked if he were my boyfriend.

She was vigorously brushing my hair and shaping it at the same time.

“He’s my suite mate. There’s three of us in the suite. He’s here to act as my bodyguard. Hired muscle, so to speak.”

“Well, I wonder. The two of you look so much like a couple. When you walked in, he gave off more than “hired muscle” vibes. I think he’s smitten.”

“We’ve been through a lot together. He’s very protective of me. Like a big brother.”

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave in a minute, ‘big brother.’ Philippa’s going to be changing and I’m sure she’d prefer to preserve her modesty.”

“I’ll wait outside, Phil.” He stepped out of the trailer.

“He’s in love.” Brenda started to apply moisturizer, primer, and then a coat of foundation, blending it outwards in a circular motion. I took mental notes so I could practice doing it myself. Being beautiful isn’t easy.

“I’ve got so much going on right now, I’d prefer we just remained good friends…for now.” Brenda dusted my face with powder, using a fluffy brush, especially under my eyes. Do I have crow’s feet at 20? Egad, no.

“By the looks of him, I’d say you better not put him off too long. He’ll be taken off the market pretty quick. Just like my Darren. We met in college too. Girls were literally fighting over him. Word to the wise, girl, get while the getting is good.”

“You’re a riot, Brenda. You knew what you wanted from the get-go. Me, I’ve just been a girl for less than a week—”

“Huh? What are you talking about?”

“Oh, I mean, I used to dress very drab, kinda tomboy-ish. Boys wouldn’t give a second look. To be honest, they wouldn’t give me a first look.”
“I can’t believe that. Beauty’s more than skin deep or the kind of clothes you wear. I betcha Paul there saw your true beauty even on your drabbest day. Maybe you just didn’t pick up his vibe. Is he kind of shy?”

After applying blush to my cheeks and some highlighter to make them glow, she started on my eyes. I was afraid of getting poked in the eye each time she used a brush or even her finger.

“Shy? Paul? No, he’s the most confident guy on campus. He only dates 10’s. His current girlfriend Olga is even prettier than his cousin and she’s a movie star. You know, Annie Flaherty.”

She started scaring me by applying eyeliner with a pencil very, very close to the lash line. I held my breath and kept my head stockstill while she worked deliberately.

“She’s his cousin? I think she’s delightful. Such nice comic timing for someone so young. She’s gorgeous too. And this Olga is even prettier? I’ll have to see that to believe it.”

After filling in my brows with an eyebrow pencil, Brenda applied a coat of mascara to my eyelashes.

“How’s that look, sweetie?”

“Oh my gosh, is that me? You’re a magician, Brenda!”

“It’s just light makeup. You don’t need too much to shine. Now, let me dab on some lip gloss to get that subtle tint-like effect.”

There was a knock on the door.

“Ladies! How are we doing? I’d like to start shooting. We’re all set up.”

“Come in, Darren. Take a look for yourself. She’s perfect. I didn’t need to apply two coats of foundation like the last girl you worked with.”

Professor Pace’s face broke out in a wide smile as he looked me over.

“What did I tell you, Brenda? She’s going to make the website pop! And just imagine the videos on YouTube.”

“Well, get out. She has to change into her first outfit.”

“Going, going. Hurry up. I’m champing at the bit to get this shoot started.” The trailer door slammed shut behind him.

“Change into the outfit that’s labeled number one, sweetie.”

“Clever system you have there.”

The first location was the Main Quad, site of oldest and most important buildings in the University. I must have crisscrossed the Quad a hundred times, all while carrying either a book bag or actual spiral notebooks. For a couple of shots we used a biochemistry or calculus textbook. My suggestion of using an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel was vetoed. Paul suggested a copy of the manga classic “Berserk (Deluxe Volume 1).” Professor Pace stopped in his tracks, looked quizzically at Paul, and simply said, “No.”

Each time, Pace asked me to walk slower, faster, take smaller mincing steps, jump, run, everything short of hopping. Brenda had to refresh my make-up several times. He was starting to annoy me but the experience was exhilarating. I was the center of rapt attention. A large crowd started to gather around the Main Quad as we moved from spot to spot. Pace’s assistant lighting dude had to repeatedly shoo people away from the borders of the shoot.

Throughout the morning, Paul was right there, sometimes standing behind Pace, mimicking his movements with his SLR camera, sometimes shadowing Pace’s assistant camera person as she shot video of the whole spectacle. Whenever I smiled at him, Paul’s face lit up and he’d give me a thumb’s up or an O.K. sign. Brenda smirked whenever she saw us exchanging glances and gestures.

Toward the end of the morning session, Professor Pace entered the trailer unannounced. Fortunately, I had just finished changing into the third outfit. Brenda was pinning the hem of the skirt since it was hanging below my knees when I first stepped into it.

“Philippa, honey, is Paul going to hang around all day? Doesn’t he have classes to attend?”

“No, he’s free all day on Fridays. Just worked out that way. He’s not in your way, is he?”

“Oh, Darren, can’t you tell they’re head over heels in love? He’s devoted to her. Remember when we first started dating?”

“Yes, dear, but…look…frankly, he’s rather opinionated. He likes making suggestions. Some of them are so bizarre—”

“I’ll talk to him, Professor.”

“I hope you don’t have any more visitors, Philippa. These are unnecessary distractions. And things are going so well. We might be able to wrap this all up by five o’clock. Just in time for Brenda to put the kettle on when we get home.”

“I’ll be too tired to cook, Darren. Let’s order in.”

“O.K. Whatever. One last shot and we’ll break for lunch.” The trailer door slammed shut.

“Sometimes I think marriage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Brenda sighed.

“Especially for women,” I declared in solidarity.

After touring classrooms in the science buildings (I looked very cute with safety glasses, gloves, and working a Bunsen burner), we moved our little caravan to Stanford Stadium where I stood in the empty stands overlooking the football field wearing a logo sweater and holding up a foam index finger. It was so windy up there in the stands that Brenda finally convinced Pace to let me wear my hair in a high pony-tail. For a fast minute, Pace actually considered putting me in a cheerleader outfit. But we were running slightly behind on time so he discarded the thought. Phew!

Our penultimate location was Coho, the student coffee house where Meryl killed it on Open Mic Tuesday. Unbeknownst to either of us, Professor Pace had arranged to have a student performer on stage while I was to sit in rapt attention at a first row table. So, we were pleasantly surprised to see each other in those respective roles. As the crew entered, we spotted each other and Meryl rushed toward me, practically jumping into my arms, planting sloppy kisses on my startled face.

“You…uh…obviously know each other?” Pace asked.

“Phil’s my honey. Sweetest, prettiest girl on campus. My muse!”

Meryl’s wide smile stretched from ear to ear. I was a little more subdued. Paul turned away. Brenda appeared shocked.

“Well, you learn something new every hour with this girl, eh? Anyway, this is a quick one shot. We’ll set up some accent lights to make it look like evening and then, if you will, Miss Wilton, get up on stage and just sing a couple of lines. Philippa, look like you’re enjoying her performance. Everyone else, just act naturally, as Ringo Starr would say.” He laughed at his own witticism.

Afterwards, Brenda took me aside, ostensibly to refresh my make-up. As she desultorily brushed my cheeks, she lowered her voice as the crew was packing up to move to our final location, the residence halls.

“You and this girl have something going on?”

“We’re…uh…friends. She’s gay. I’m not. At least, as far as I know.”

“Oh, o.k. Look all us girls experimented at one time or another. It happens. You’re in college. You’re curious—”

“It’s not a big deal, Brenda.”

“Don’t let it come between you and Paul. I like him. A lot. He’s a nice young man. And he loves the heck out of you. I can tell. Don’t tell me you don’t feel the same for him—”

Meryl walked by, blew me a kiss, and gestured that she would give me a call. I watched her walk out of the coffee house. Turning back to Brenda, she was shaking her head disapprovingly. I looked around for Paul but couldn’t spot him.

“Brenda, have you seen Paul? Did he leave?”

“He was here just 5 minutes ago.”

Paul suddenly appeared behind Brenda’s left shoulder.

“Someone called my name?”

“I was afraid you’d left.”

“I had to go take a piss. Too much coffee from craft services.”

Brenda nodded to me and walked away, leaving me alone with Paul.

“Phil, there’s something I need to tell you—”

“Don’t.” I placed my index finger on his lips to quiet him. “It’s not what you think. Meryl’s a friend. I have no romantic interest in her—”

“Phil, we’re being followed.”

“Huh? By whom?”

Paul tilted his head toward the front window. “See that black sedan across the street? See the two guys inside?”

“Yeah, they look annoyingly like Agents Myers and Sturges. Black suits and ties. Very Federal agent-like.”

“But it’s not them. It’s two other dudes. Probably from the same agency that won’t be named.”

“What do we do?”

“They’ve been following us since this morning so I guess they don’t want to make a scene. As long as we’re surrounded by witnesses—”

“They can’t do anything. But eventually…”

“I hope they’re just observing. What happened to Myers and Sturges might happen to anyone else that tries to apprehend us. They’ve got to consider that. Let’s catch up with the crew.” Paul took my hand and we walked out into the gloaming of late afternoon. Next stop, our residence hall.

By the time we reached Governor’s Corner to finish the day’s shoot, the largest crowd of the day had gathered around our dorm building. It took several minutes before there was enough space cleared in front of the entrance to begin. Near the front of the mob was Ron. He was whistling and making what he thought were complimentary remarks about my looks. Professor Pace stared daggers at him, gesturing for him to shut up. If this were a Looney Tunes cartoon, a megaphone would have been drawn into frame and placed in Pace’s hand.

“We’re losing the light. Let’s get the show on the road! Philippa, whenever you’re ready. Walk toward the entrance. Someone will exit. You step aside as she walks out and then you enter. O.K.?”

We did this three or four times before Pace was finally satisfied.

“That’s a wrap! Thank you everyone for your efforts today. I think this went really well. Let’s give Philippa a hand!”

The crowd joined in and applauded. I bowed several times in every direction, exhausted from 10 hours of modeling but a sense of exhilaration and achievement made me smile almost to the point of embarrassment. The crew packed up and loaded everything into their van, Brenda took her personal things out of the trailer, locked it up, and gave me a peck on the cheek and a chuck of my chin.

“Stay beautiful, sweetie. I hope we get to work together again.”

“Come by the department office Monday, Philippa. The Chairman’s assistant will cut you a check. We’ll work together again if I can help it. Goodbye.” Brenda and Professor Pace walked off arm in arm.

“They’re really quite sweet together. I wonder what their children are like.”

“Phil, they’re probably going home to have a knock down, drag out fight like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

“Paul Flaherty, you unrepentant romantic—”

“Paul Raymond Flaherty and Philip Rowan Chang?”

The two men in black had slowly emerged from their black sedan and waited patiently for the crowd to disperse before approaching us.

“Here we go again. Listen, haven’t you guys learned your lesson from the last time you tried to abduct us?”

“That’s why we’re here, Mr. Flaherty. Let me introduce ourselves. I’m Agent Norris and this is my associate, Agent Blanco.”

“The pleasure’s all yours, I’m sure.”

“Perhaps you’re not aware that Agents Myers and Sturges missed almost a full 24 hours of time. Their last memory before showing up at Travis AFB a day after they were expected was waking up in their car 10 miles out of San Roman on I-880 Thursday afternoon. They were escorting the two of you to Travis. You weren’t in the car when they woke up. A few phone calls confirmed you were back at school and here you are, no worse for wear. We want to know what happened, how it happened, why it happened.”

“We’re as mystified by all of this as you are. We can’t tell you what we don’t know,” I pleaded.

“That may be. But we want to take you back to Travis for a thorough debrief. We’ll use hypnotic memory recovery if necessary. This is a national security threat involving exo-biological entities with unknown motivation. It’s the patriotic thing to do. You can come willingly or not. Your choice.”

“Would you try to reverse my gender transformation?” I asked tremulously.

“We’ll try. They have some really advanced medical research going on under the auspices of the military. I’ve even heard rumors that they’ve dealt with this…uh…situation before with some abductees. Of course, I can’t give you any assurances.”

“Will you let Paul go if I consent to this?”

“As long as we’re confident he’s been as forthcoming as possible and we have no further need for his participation, yes, he can be released.”

I turned to Paul. “I’ll go with them if it means you can return to your normal life. Finish school, become a filmmaker, get married, have a family. It’s the right thing to do.”

“Don’t do it, Phil. They can’t force us. We’ll expose the whole deep state conspiracy before they can nab us. Your mom, my dad, they have access to the media. They’d never let them get away with it.”

“My life is over anyway, Paul. How can I ever lead a normal life after this? There is no Philippa Chang. I’m the monstrous creation of a deranged extraterrestrial.” I turned to the agents. “Let’s go. Promise you’ll let Paul go after you debrief him.”

“You have my word. For what it’s worth. I’m just a cog in the wheel but I’d try my best for your friend. The car is over there. Gentleman…and lady.”

As we settled into the back seat of the black sedan, Paul turned away from me, his voice choked and quivering.

“If only I hadn’t told you to look through that telescope. You would have just gone back downstairs. We wouldn’t be in this mess right now. I’m sorry, Phil.”

“It’s not your fault, Paul. Shakespeare was wrong. The fault is not in ourselves but in our stars.”

“Whoa! Step on the brake, Harry!”

“Where did she come from? She just appeared out of nowhere.”

It was the alien girl with the enormous blue eyes, standing in the middle of the road, that large dog, unleashed, crouched by her side.

“Marv, get out and see if she’s hurt. She’s not moving.”

Before Marv could open the car door, the large dog rose on its hind legs and walked toward us, the girl following behind. It was Miss Wolverton without her lab coat. The ray gun was in her right hand, pointed at the agents. A blinding light shot out of its muzzle and the agents
disappeared. Peering through the window on my side, she motioned for me to roll it down.

“A thousand apologies. I thought I was doing you a…what’s the word in your culture? Ah, yes, a mitzvah. However, I’ve caused more harm and disturbance than I calculated. My faculty advisors are very angry. I may need to be re-trained on off-world research procedures. It might mean another two years before I can qualify for a doctorate. Luckily, I have the capability of erasing my grievous errors. So, do not fear, I will return everything to its former state. I can’t undo events that have transpired but I can erase the memories of those events. And I can return you to your original gender. A word of advice though. You really should look into what your culture calls gender affirmation surgery. Farewell. Word to your mother.”

Another blinding light from her ray gun blasted me into blackness.

My alarm clock buzzed at exactly 8AM. I opened my eyes and sighed. Time to get up and face another day of classes. Why did I ever sign up for a 9 o’clock class on a Friday. Yeah, it was the only course on the 19th Century novel they were offering this semester but I could’ve waited until next Fall. I sat up in bed and slipped my feet into my flip flops. Yawning, I opened the door and blindly stumbled toward the bathroom. Finding the bathroom door closed, I banged on it.

“Ron, I know it’s you in there. Why do you take so long in the bathroom every morning. I’ve gotta piss real bad.”

The door swung open. Ron appeared, wiping the shaving cream off his face, his toothbrush sticking out of the side of his mouth. A look of annoyance was spread across his features.

“Because, unlike you, girly man, I have to shave every morning. Speaking of which, are you sure you’re a guy? You wear the baggiest clothes anyone’s ever seen. Even the t-shirt you’re wearing right now hangs almost down to your knees. It’s like a dress, for god’s sake.”

“Leave him alone, Ron. He just wants to take a piss. Do I have to keep you guys apart or what?” Paul was already dressed and ready to eat his usual breakfast downstairs in the dining hall.

“Bacon and eggs, toast, coffee, and Olga? The breakfast of champions. There’s a real man for you, Phyllis.” I ignored him and rushed into the bathroom, slamming the door behind me. I sat myself down on the toilet and did my business.

“Betcha he sits down to pee, Pauly. Betcha a sawbuck.”


We were looking down on Clarissa sleeping peacefully in her toddler bed as I put on my jacket. It was 11PM and I was heading home. Philippa had just finished the recounting of her alien abduction dream. And, we had finished off half a bottle of Chianti doing it.

“So you see it was all an elaborate albeit vivid dream.”

I took Philippa’s arm and guided her out of Clarissa’s bedroom. It was necessary to do so as she was just a little tipsy from the wine.

“But there’s so much detail. And you remember almost everything in the dream. Do you frequently have such vivid dreams?”

“No, not really. Mostly I don’t even remember my dreams. It’s just this one that’s stayed with me for six years. Maybe because its theme is my own transgenderism.”

“Well, you and Paul should turn it into a movie.”

“Maybe we will. I’ve told Paul the dream several times over the years. He just laughs at it because it makes him out to be a real flake. A male bimbo almost.”

“Was there a real Olga?”

“Paul swears he never dated anyone named Olga. But I only roomed with him after our junior year. What he was up to before that, who knows?”

I climbed into my car and waved to Philippa before I pressed the ignition and drove off to Alastair’s Silverlake guest house.

The following week, when Paul returned from his New York trip to meet with Robert DeNiro, I asked him about Philippa’s strange dream. As his wife predicted, he laughed and said “she has a wild imagination, as you well know.”

But, he reached into a bookshelf next to his desk and pulled out a copy of The Stanford University College brochure for 2016.

“I did once check the Stanford website and found nothing. Which makes sense anyway since the online site is updated every year and for whatever reason there’s no pdf file for the 2016 brochure. However, I found this hard copy of it on eBay.”

He handed it to me and told me to flip through its pages, paying close attention to the model in the photos.

“There’s no model credit given but whoever that is looks a lot like what Philippa would’ve looked like if she had transitioned before 2016.”


I had to agree. The resemblance was uncanny, eerie in fact. That surely was Philippa. But Philippa was still Philip in 2016. The existence of these photos is impossible. I handed the brochure back to Paul. His voice took on an oddly wistful tone.

“I expected to see Rod Serling in a corner of the room, smirking, a lit cigarette dangling from the fingers of his left hand.”

The End

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