Eric Cole ran as his ex-girlfriend, Misty, screamed though the hallway, "I'm gonna blast your balls off!"
When he responded to heavy knocks on the front door of his apartment, it may have appeared she was leveling a handgun at him. But the colorful, purple handle gave away the true nature of her weapon.
He had no idea how he dodged the first blast of light and energy. Instinctively, he pushed the door in her face but her legs were already through and nothing would keep her out.
After the hallway and the threat still ringing in his ears, Eric sprinted into the living room and grabbed the mirror off the wall. It was tall and narrow and made for a decent shield.
Misty stalked around the corner, her colorful gun leading. Her black hair seemed darker than usual with tendrils that splayed across her forehead like spider legs. While a head shorter than him, Eric knew never to underestimate Misty with how much time she spent kickboxing in the gym.
In fact, with the shine of sweat at the back of her ponytail of black hair and the colorless sweats she was dressed in, he knew she had just come from the gym.
Shifting the mirror in front of him strategically, Eric asked, "Where did you get that?"
Misty clenched her empty hand and her jaw at the same time, as though she meant to strike him with both. "I bought it a long fucking time ago. Just in case. With a permit."
In the light of the room, the plastic gloss of the weapon made it look like a discount store squirt gun. The barrel had a sloping ridge, which gave it a pudgy appearance. Except for the colored handle, the rest of the weapon was a dark gray that nearly blended into Misty's clothes.
Her finger looked tensed on the trigger. Eric twitched a bit with his grip on the mirror. He knew far too many parts of his body were vulnerable.
Avoiding stammering, he asked her, "Why are you doing this?"
Misty glared and used her tightened, empty hand to cradle the weapon. "You know damn well!"
Fighting back fear, Eric glared at her. His young features curled with stern wrinkles. "No. I don't. You break things off five months ago. You move out. You vanish with no message or anything. And then you bust in here with that."
Misty didn't flinch. Her head arched up a little. "I left because I was so mad I couldn't think. I didn't want anything to do with you ever again. I know what you did
Eric lowered his head so only his eyes showed over the top of the mirror. "And what do you think I did?"
With her mouth clenched, Misty pointed a finger out alongside her gun. "There. That was just one of the little things I remember. What I 'think'. You can't even imagine admitting. It's just something I think
or something I made up."
Eric nearly tried to argue that wasn't what he meant but he waited and she finally unwound the cause of her rage.
"You had sex with my best friend."
Eric admitted to it. "Yeah. She came onto me at that party. It was a fluke. I didn't want things to go ape-shit about it because it was nothing and she told me it was nothing."
Misty shook her head. "That's not it. That was only the beginning. She told me how you felt it was nothing. She told me right after it happened. And I waited for you to come clean too. But nothing. No "oh
it's a fluke"...just
Eric backed away from the wall with his mirror still in front of him. "So then what will this prove?"
Misty leveled her eyes. "It'll make me feel better." She blasted the tips of his fingers as they held onto the mirror.
Eric saw and his heart raced. He tried to curl his fingers in but the mirror was too awkward and he risked dropping it if he took his fingers away. The blast glanced across his fingertips and tingled to his wrist. That was as far as the energy made it but it was enough for Eric to see immediate effects.
His broad hands trimmed down, the bone structure shifting inside. Stray hairs on the back of his hand vanished and his fingers looked longer than usual. There was also glossiness to his nails which wasn't there before, although they didn't look painted.
Eric gasped and huddled behind the mirror even more so that his head didn't show.
Panting, Eric glanced up quickly to make sure Misty wasn't advancing and told her, "You don't want to do this! This is crazy!"
Some of Misty's fury waned and she gave a cool chuckle. "This is even more cathartic than I expected. That pretty hand is just the beginning. The rest of you is next."
Eric ducked below a shot clearly aimed at his hair. He blurted out, "Wait! Wait! I'm sorry. Shit. I'm sorry for all this. I'm sorry for all the terrible stuff that went wrong. I'm sorry for whatever all this is about."
Misty's mouth widened a little. "Haven't you been listening? This isn't whatever! This is about not being able to trust my best friend anymore. The person I lean on. You took that away from me! And I have to take something from you!"
Misty squeezed the trigger and, after a quick barrage, both his hands matched, small and girlish, no matter how much dodging he did around the TV. The extra shots ricocheted off the glass but Eric was swift enough to avoid them.
Despite his losses, Eric felt a little better. He could keep his hands out to hold the mirror without worry and maneuver the glass. It was a small sacrifice for girly hands. He took a breath and knew it would be attrition until the charge in the gun wore down or he could finally reason with Misty.
He opened his mouth to speak and noticed that Misty was glancing to his right. She leaned the gun and fired a deliberately misaimed shot. By the time Eric saw the shot coming at him, reflected by the glass of the TV screen, he only had enough time to get his arm up to shield that side.
The tingling felt stronger this time. It flowed from where the last one had touched, rose up his arm, and finally stopped at his shoulder. He had the presence of mind to edge back to block the TV and keep the mirror protecting the rest of his body.
While Eric's arms were never particularly muscular, that arm now felt and looked so slender and soft as it slid around in his sleeve.
Misty cursed and noted, "I was hoping to blast your face. Try hiding something like that. And hair. I'll make sure it's long
A little shiver rippled through Eric's neck and up to his hair, like a precursor to what Misty was threatening. He always kept his hair short and away from his ears. Misty used to say he liked it. She always compared it to the sleek fur of a teddy bear.
Stammering, he told her that.
Her mouth didn't rise or fall. She just replied, "The past is gone and I can't have it back. But your future will be a warning you'll never forget."
Eric tried to keep as much distance between him and Misty as possible. The layout of the room with his entertainment center and couch offered places where he could block her. But he also looked at the sliding glass door with caution. It could easily be used to hit him on the other side.
With the throbbing of his heart through his ears, Eric tried the first thing he could think of, "Wait! The past is important! Remember how we met? Remember how happy we were?"
He watched the angle of Misty's gun lower just a little. Her expression seemed less like anger. She answered, "Yeah
I remember how we met. It was in that old bookstore
in the back."
Eric's head stretched over the edge of the glass like a tortoise's. In his watching, he didn't notice Misty flicking the aim of the gun to the glass door. Before he could turn to block the blast, it shuddered through his other arm. Now both matched perfectly.
Misty continued, "I remember
I especially remember the perv who was going through the lesbian lit. I thought it was amusing at the time and you were kinda cute. But I should've known that was only a preview of all the rest to follow."
Lifting the mirror didn't feel any harder for Eric with his changed arms. He answered back, his voice near begging, "Wasn't there anything worthwhile in our relationship? None of the late night movies we watched together? None of the dancing at crazy hours? None of it had any positives?"
At least, Misty's aim dropped. She looked him in the eye and shook her head slowly. "You just can't get it. I told you the past is gone. You betrayed our commitment and invalidated all those months and you hurt a relationship of years and years."
Eric shook his head in return. "So this is the answer to that?"
"I know I can't make sure. You may never understand what it means for me. But this is the start."
Eric kept out of the way of another quick barrage. He knew that those things ran on a charge but he hadn't been keeping a count on how many times she'd fired. Considering most ran at least one-hundred shots, he knew this could keep going for a while.
"But what if it doesn't change anything? You're just altering some of my physical flesh."
"Permanently-altering. It's set to permanent. And if it's not a big deal
just a little altered flesh
then by all means
save me some time and step forward."
Eric swallowed and stepped back. He'd heard of these things with permanent settings but he never thought Misty would actually use it. It sent a chill through him to think that his arms and hands would be like this for the rest of his life.
The prospect urged his next words. "There's got to be something. Listen to reason. Please!"
Again, Misty's aim dropped but Eric wasn't falling for the same trick twice. He kept on guard.
This time, she flinched up once but set the gun down on a nearby counter and took a step away. It was too far for Eric to make a grab for it and he was far too interested in keeping the mirror in front of him. It was heavy to hold for so long a time.
Folding her arms and taking a breath, Misty cleared her spidery locks of hair away and told Eric, "Talking this out is better if you're not cowering behind that thing." She held her arms out and turned them for Eric to see. "I put it down in good faith. A last try at trusting you. What will you do, Eric?" She cracked a smile that unnerved Eric.
Eyeing her over carefully for any mysterious lumps in her pocket or bulges up her sleeve, Eric deemed her clean, gingerly set his mirror down against the couch, and approached. He didn't get too close to Misty but said, "I'm glad you're still able to listen to reason."
Before he could say more, a sudden flash of light caught him from the side. At first, he thought that Misty had brought an accomplice but the flash was coming from the gun itself. He only had moment as the light blasted him right in the eye and rippled over his entire head.
In the temporary blindness to follow, he tried to think back to where his mirror was sitting. He flailed, trying to ignore the changes and tingles all across his face. Desperately, he ducked with every hint of sound.
He nearly cut his hand along the side of the mirror but he had it up with a quick jerk. His cheek was strangely cool with every pass of air from the apartment's air-conditioning. The mental geography of his face didn't match anymore. And a shower of hair was growing relentlessly past his shoulder. The tingling felt like tickles and shivers at the same time all around his head.
When it was done, after-images were all over the place. He looked ahead and realized he had the mirror facing him. The visage was unfamiliar but had some traces of his features. His head had a rounded flow, especially at the cheeks. The sides of his nose tapered in more. His lashes were not as pronounced around his eyes, but his eyes were the same, muddy brown color.
He'd always had a full lower lip but now both curled and looked full. There was a new ridge that joined his smaller nose and fuller lips. A quick touch of his cheek revealed only softness and none of his afternoon stubble of a moment before.
While his eyebrows were always narrow, they'd clung close to his eyes, making his features appear a bit sterner than he liked. Now, they actually looked bigger, but lighter, as though softened with plucking. They also rode higher on his face.
But what Eric picked out first from the womanly reflection was the hair. The tone was a little lighter than before and there was so much everywhere. It surrounded his ears. It was heavy on his neck. It tugged back a little with every move. Locks of it flowed over the front and back of his shirt to the nipple-line. Immediately, Eric made sure his unaltered nipples were fully covered by the mirror as he turned the reflective side back around in Misty's direction.
Misty chuckled at that. She had the gun back in her hand and explained, "Apparently it has an option to automatically lock on and fire. Just shoots a few times though. But that's fine. I've already got you."
Eric didn't bother to cover his face anymore. He adjusted his new hair a lot and noted, "It's just little things. I could cut my hair and I can live without facial hair. I can build up my arms." He had missed the change in his voice though. It was softer than Misty's voice despite his best efforts to deepen it. It sounded childish but not so far off that he couldn't potentially hide it.
Misty let her amusement show. "Sure. Plenty of boys are singing in cute soprano. But you miss my key point. A headshot with this type of gun means your brain is also affected. Thus
I win. It's inevitable."
Eric's eyes widened and his heart picked up its pace. He'd heard about the mental effects. They didn't change personality but they made it easier for a complete change to happen. Like a hypnotic suggestion for the target to throw themselves in front of the beam. Eric searched his thoughts with relief that he wasn't entertaining the possibility of leaving the safety of the mirror.
He told himself that he was strong and he would make it. But there was a whispering little notion in his head. It was curiosity. It didn't voice the idea of jumping in front of the beam but it pondered what his legs would be like if they were hit by the beam. It also noted that he might be able to hide the changes better if his limbs were not of such different shapes.
Eric shook his hair with a flurry of tossed locks. Misty laughed and noted, "Come on, finish it."
The voice inside agreed with her and noted to Eric to lift the mirror up to reveal his over-sized legs. He started to do it till he winced and lowered the mirror again. Misty chimed in, "You're just delaying. Stop delaying!"
Eric's knee shook. "It's not fair to control my mind!"
She snorted back. "Not fair? Was what you did to me fair? I didn't whine about it! At least, be a man in your last moments as one!"
Eric shivered at her words. He couldn't believe the idea that might never be a man again. It seemed impossible. He told himself he was going to wake up and it would all be in his head. He shut his eyes a little, not too much, and poked himself in the side with his daintier fingers.
Not matter how much prodding he did, nothing changed the reality of the situation.
Misty approached closer and noted, "You realize I can shoot you in the legs right now. Easy shot
" She bent the gun forward with a tight smile and her eyes to the side.
Eric moved to cover the possible blind side. He looked for a reflective surface he may have missed. Too late, she realized that Misty had bluffed. In his haste to protect one side, he'd left the other open from the glass pot of the fern on the other side of the room.
Before he could figure out where the shots had come from, several had blasted through the back of his knees.
He squeaked out his fear and surprise. He tumbled to the ground, his legs feeling momentarily numb, and the mirror slipped away. Looking up in horror, Misty leveled the gun at him again. Before she could fire, he turned the mirror against his mid-section to cover his chest and groin.
Meanwhile, the tingles were spreading out from the point of impact and all around his legs. It felt like the momentary numbness of rising from an awkward pose but without the painful pins-and-needles.
His pants hid the visual change but his imagination turned over the details. The tingles flowed down to his feet, which shrunk like waves in the air were drawing out the mass. His thighs felt like someone had perfectly shaved them, especially when they slid across the rough denim of his pants. The bottoms flowed past his feet, revealing his legs as not only smaller but shorter as well.
Flowing up, the tingles stopped just short of his groin and hips. Standing felt strange at first, especially with Eric tripping over his pants. They stayed on but only due to his belt.
The little idea in his head was pleased that his arms and legs matched now but felt concerned about his legs being connected to hips that were a wrong size. Eric guarded his hips with the mirror and told Misty, "You have to stop this! This is wrong. I'm not meant to be a girl."
Misty tapped her gun gently. "I say otherwise. There was always something about you, Eric. I say I'm doing you a service."
Eric tried to keep from shaking his head and blinding himself with tossed hair. "What do you mean? Is this about the lesbian lit?"
He watched as Misty settled on her heels and brought her gun back. "Call it a hunch and when I'm done
we'll see how right I was."
As he watched the gun, his eyes also drifted to Misty's breast. It curved like a wave over the muscular but lean form of Misty's chest. She'd always been self-conscious of her breasts. Before she could say something in anger about where he was staring, Eric bowed his head and said, "It must be so challenging to be a girl. I mean I listened to all the hard things you went through. You had all those terrible periods where you wanted chop wood in half. You felt bloated. You kept trying to keep attention off your chest but felt conflicted by liking its shape. I'm so sorry I didn't listen and help better before
and I'm so deeply sorry for betraying you."
It was Eric's last possible plea. He looked up to see Misty's mouth wavering. But she set her legs and replied, "You'll experience the challenge first-hand. No more listening. You will know what it means."
She aimed the next blast near his hand. Despite the fact his hand was already changed, he flinched and that was enough for the mirror to slip out of his grip. The barrage of blasts flowed at Eric's body before he could move away. The thought in his head also urged him to linger.
He watched as the first blast struck the side of his hip. Another hit the other side but that one was enough. Eric was frozen in place with the shift of his hips. His pants felt loose and tight in new places. He dashed a hand down just in time to feel the tingle cross over his groin. Soon, his underwear hung loosely around him.
In the moment it took for Eric to feel a fearful rush, he was blasted across the chest several times by Misty's final volley.
He staggered back as his entire chest felt the rush of tingles. He shut his eyes, still denying himself the female pronoun. The press of his chest made his new voice squeak in surprise. With a final shiver, all the changes ended and he could feel the clear presence of his new form.
He waited till Misty cleared her throat to open his eyes. Looking down, he saw a gentle, twin crest to his chest that flowed against his rough and wrinkled shirt. It didn't hurt but he felt much more of a presence on his chest. It wasn't heavy but it was unsettling.
Even more unsettling was the new texture of his groin as he cautiously moved to look in the mirror. Bending slowly, he picked it up and looked into the reflective side.
The woman looking back at him appeared more like one of his cousins than himself. Her figure paled to Misty's but she had a gentle, soft presence that captivated Eric.
With another cough, Misty stretched her leg and asked, "So, is that good? I'm getting kinda tired."
Eric looked up and pouted. "Aww
you're gonna break character?"
Misty twisted her mouth and shrugged. "Isn't this role playing thing just about done?"
Eric walked around the couch in his new legs and brushed back his heavy hair. "I guess so but do we really need to cut it short? There's still so much we can do to finish it off."
With a rub of her chin, Misty noted, "My energy was kinda tailing off at the end. I pretty well got you. And, I must say, blasting a gender-changing energy gun is so cathartic. Better than paintball."
Eric smiled a little with his new face before showing a frown. "I'm still so very sorry that you and Kate didn't stay friends."
Misty gave a quick shrug. "Even though she lied to me, I fucked up big-time thinking you two were cheating. I get it now. You were curious about her for girl stuff, like with all that lesbian lit. I'm not much of a girly girl and she is. And you were right and I had my head up my ass." She set the gun down on the counter, this time with it off, and slipped her arms behind her head.
The two of them sat down on the couch.
Eric moved his hands around a bit, mostly adjusting his hair, before he found a place for them in his lap. "You did really well with everything."
Glancing over at Eric with eyes slowly easing, Misty shrugged. "I lived it in my head. I figured
one day you would say it all and playing it over in my head would be done. I'm so glad I blurted out wanting to license for a gender change gun to get you when I happened to call. We might never have talked it all out."
Eric tested her smile and female pronouns in her head. "I'm so glad too. I hope all this helped."
Misty's eyes rested on Eric's so long that she worried something was wrong. But Misty quickly smiled. "It was just what I needed. I needed to do all that. To just purge all my 'what-if' crap once and for all. I guess it worked for you
Eric nodded. "It was hard saying that I did something I didn't do
and to play that roll and to keep up a phony resistance. But it was worth it. That mental suggestion was really strong
I just about wanted to jump in front of your gun."
That earned a chuckle from Misty. She brushed back her hair, which had dried to black, silken flows. "Yeah, that was kinda cheating. How does it feel to be a girl now
Eric's eyes widened. "Wait
that permanent setting thing was just a bluff from the role play
Misty grinned widely and stuck out her tongue. "Don't worry. I'm just kidding