Ghostwriter

Copyright © 2012 Maeryn Lamonte – All Rights Reserved.

“Don’t argue with me Mike. As things stand, you’re so far behind I don’t think you’re going to make the deadline as it is. At least this way you’ll have a chance. And don’t give me any crap about writer’s block either.”

“It’s a genuine thing, Martin. Lots of writers have it.”

“I know, and the best cure is a change of pace. A change of scenery. A change of anything. Something to knock you out of your rut.”

“Yeah, I get that, but the Scottish Highlands? In the middle of winter? Who’s sodding bright idea was that? I mean if you’re going to send me anywhere, why can’t it be Barbados or Jamaica?”

“For one thing, we can’t afford to send you anywhere nice, and frankly you’re not a good enough writer to merit it. For another, if we did send you somewhere with a beach, just how much writing would you get done?”

“So instead you’re sending me to the back of bloody beyond just in time to be snowed in for the winter. How the hell am I supposed to get the manuscript to you when I’m done?”

“Heard of broadband?”

“Sure I have, but what about the natives. I mean it’s a bit backwards up there isn’t it?”

“You’d be surprised. Look, it’s a modernised farmhouse. Double glazed, well insulated, oil fired heater with enough fuel to last until the Second Coming. The place was inhabited until very recently and the owner’s desperate to keep it occupied through the winter. That’s how we managed to get it so cheap.”

“Now you’re just trying to make me feel good about it.”

“Michael. Your stuff’s good enough to print. That’s better than most writers get in this world. You’re no J.K. Rowling, but we can sell it easily enough for both of us to make a few quid out of it, as long as you give us some stuff to sell. Right now we need to unclog your pen, and if that takes sending you to some remote location to get those creative juices flowing again, then we need to do it within a budget that’s commensurate with the amount you’re likely to earn. And that means this place.

“Believe me, I’m doing you a favour. The financial climate being what it is right now, I’m under a lot of pressure to cut out the dead wood. Now I’m not saying that’s what you are, Mike, but if you can’t deliver, I can’t justify keeping you on. The choice is you go to Scotland, or you just plain go.”

I tried to stare him down. For all his skills and strengths, Martin was singularly unable to hold a bluff. This time he did, which meant that he was on the level. I shouldn’t have doubted him really. He and I had been friends for a lot of years. He’d always been straight with me, which is as uncommonly rare as it is vastly valuable in a profession run through with sycophants and cynics, and that had helped me immensely in my career.

For one thing, it helped me get over myself and accept my own limitations – which meant I stopped shooting for the moon and settled on perching on the upper branches of my chosen profession. I’d almost certainly never make it rich, but I could pay my way doing the jobs Martin sent me.

The problem was that my mental blockage had nothing to do with my environment. I knew perfectly well what was clogging up my creativity and it wasn’t likely to be helped by a change of scenery. It didn’t matter though. Martin was serious, which meant I didn’t have much of a choice.

“When do I leave?”

He handed me a small square of yellow and red cardboard.

“Train leaves in half an hour. Once you get to Perth, take the Inverness bus and give this address to the bus driver. He’ll alter his route to take you past the house.”

“What about my stuff? I need to pack.”

“You have your computer with you because I know bloody well you don’t go anywhere without it. If you give me your keys, I can pop into your flat and pack a few clothes to send up to you. Via courier, they should be with you by tomorrow or the day after at the latest; and don’t give me that look. I know you’ve worn socks and undies for more than a couple of days in the past.”

We’d been a uni together, and had shared a room in our first year. You don’t get to hide much under those circumstances.

“Fine,” I sighed, snatching the ticket out of his hand. “Just make sure you pack some of my warm stuff, and get it to me by tomorrow.”

I handed him my keys and headed for the nearest platform. Chances were it wasn’t the one on the ticket, but at least I’d be able to find a guard to ask.

-oOo-

The journey was long and dreary and fulfilled every one of my expectations, from the fossilised sandwiches and stewed tea to the gradual deterioration of the weather the further north we went. By the time I arrived in Perth, I was trapped under a solid grey ceiling of cloud, from which a bitterly cold rain fell in sheets.

One of the station staff was able to point me in the direction of the bus terminus, and five minutes later I was sitting in a nearby café, nursing the first of several cups of tea to pass the miserable two hour wait until my bus was ready to leave.

I showed the bus driver the address I was trying to reach and he gave me an odd, appraising look.

“You’ve hurrd the weather forecast?” he asked in an accent that was more quaint than unintelligible.

“Only vaguely. It doesn’t look that pleasant though.”

“You’re no really dressed for this sort of weather.”

“I didn’t really have much choice,” I said. “Last minute departure and all that.”

He shrugged and inclined his head to the seat behind him. “You’d best sit doon. I’ll let you know when we’re there.”

The bus took another fifteen minutes to fill. Many of the passengers were obviously regulars and paused to exchange pleasantries with the driver. Back home something like that would have irritated me intensely, but here I was already feeling the change in pace and relaxing into its rhythm.

The journey would have been picturesque had the weather been better. As it was, the window beside me was misted up and otherwise obscured by streaked raindrops. All I saw was a blur of colour that hinted at the heather and gorse covered hillsides. There was a little more to be seen through the driver’s window in front of me, but the rain intensified and turned to sleet as we climbed into the hills.

I hugged my computer bag – fortunately waterproof – and waited out the ride.

It was all too short a time later that the bus pulled to the side of the road in an apparently uninhabited part of the world. The driver turned to me and pointed out the windscreen at a small dirt track climbing the hill to the right.

“I canna get you any closer,” he said. “The McCallum farm is a mile and half up that track.”

“You have to be kidding,” I said, looking out at the sheets of ice and rain tearing across the bleak landscape. The track was all mud and puddles and would ruin my shoes.

“I did tell ye that ye wasne dressed for the weather, and it’s only going te get wurse. If you want to stay on the bus, I kin tak ye te Inverness, but you’ll have to decide noo.”

Was it my imagination, or was his accent getting thicker? I didn’t have enough cash to pay for a hotel in Inverness, which meant I either braved the elements and climbed up to the house, or I wimped out, in which case I got to spend the night, and several after it, on the streets of Inverness. The decision wasn’t too hard.

“I’ll get out here thanks all the same. I should be able to get warm and dry once I get to the farm house.”

“Aye, but do ye have what ye need up there? We’re expecting snow today and there’s no knowing when anyone’ll be able to get up here again after today.”

That sounded ominous. I didn’t have any signal on my mobile, which wasn’t too surprising considering the remoteness of our location. What were the chances that Martin had sorted everything out up here? Usually he was quite good, but I didn’t fancy being caught up here with no food or heat.

“What happens if I get there and find there’s no provisions?”

“Och, you’ll be alright with that. Teresa McCallum was always one to keep the place well provisioned. There’ll be enough oil for the winter, and food enough to last oot the weather. There’s a telephone as well, so ye ken call the rescue services if you get in too much trouble.

“The hard bit’s going te be climbing the hill in as little as ye have on.”

“I’ll risk it, I think. Thanks for getting me this far.”

“Well take care young man. I canne wait aboot.”

He opened the door and I climbed down into the sleeting weather. The bus was away and winding down the road before I had settled my bag comfortably on my shoulder. The bitter wind tore through my thin layers like they weren’t there, and I set about moving up the track as fast as I could, thinking to generate a bit of heat by moving. I was soaked to the skin before I’d crossed the road, and shivering uncontrollably before I was a hundred yards up the track.

-oOo-

Half a mile on, the sleet turned to snow. The wind was still icy, and my clothes were so wet that the change made little difference for good or bad. The path swung around a little more into the lee of the hill, making things a little easier, and I trudged on, no longer trying to avoid the puddles as both my shoes and socks were as soaked as the rest of me.

The farmhouse came into view and I broke into a gentle jog. It was only another half mile, but the gradient was deceptive and I had to slow to a gentle amble a couple of times while I recovered. The cold air hurt my lungs and my teeth, so I pressed on with as much effort as I could muster, the promise of warmth and shelter egging me on.

The key was under a false stone just to the right of the door. I shifted a couple of real ones before I found the one I was looking for, by which time I was shivering so violently I couldn’t keep it still enough to insert into the lock.

By sheer force of will, and using both hands, I guided the key home, turned it and all but fell across the threshold into the stone floored kitchen. The heating was off, or on low, so it wasn’t much better inside than out. Somewhat desperately, I pulled off first my bag then my clothes, dropping them in a soaking heap on the floor and walking further in to the empty house, naked, dripping and freezing cold.

I found the phone with one message flashing on the answering machine, then a little further on I found a bathroom. There I discovered a small hand towel, which I used and probably ruined, drying the worst of water from my hair and body and rubbing a little warmth back into my bones. Feeling a little better, I gave the rest of the house a quick once over.

It was a large sprawling place, and felt more like a home than a rental property. Naked as I was, I felt highly self-conscious poking around the place. I was half-convinced that the owner might pop her head round the corner at any moment, and it wasn’t until I’d been through the whole place that I began to relax.

I still needed to get warm and there was no clue as to where the heating controls were. Until I did something about it, I wouldn’t be able to think clearly either, which meant that my best bet would be to put on some dry clothes. Unfortunately, the only ones I had were lying in a puddle in the kitchen.

I made my way back to the master bedroom, which was the only one showing any signs of occupation. The others had unmade beds and empty closets, but the master looked well lived in, albeit by someone of the female persuasion.

Feeling self-conscious again, I went through the chest of drawers and the wardrobe in the bedroom. Whoever owned this place had excellent taste in clothing. The only problem was that it was suited to a young woman. There wasn’t a scrap of clothing that even came close to being described as male.

Well there were a few pairs of jeans, but when I held them up against my legs, it was obvious that they weren’t going to work. They had a slight stretch to them – all the better for that painted on look I supposed – but they were designed for someone with slimmer legs than I had. Not to mention there was no space in the crotch area to accommodate me.

No. If I had any chance of fitting in to any of these things, I’d have to forgo anything trouser related.

And that was a problem. I could already feel icy cold tendrils of adrenaline seeping into my blood. This was something I’d been fighting most of my life, and when your own body is your adversary, you’re going to lose out either way.

On an intellectual level I didn’t want anything to do with this. I hated being different from other guys, and most especially I hated the part of me that was most different. I didn’t have a lot of control over it thought. Since I’d been about eight or nine, I’d sought out ways of climbing into dresses. First it was Mum’s stuff, then I started buying stuff from charity shops – explaining I was getting costumes for parties or amateur dramatics productions. Sometimes went so far as to go dumpster diving for stuff.

I went through phases of binging and purging. Sometimes I’d give in completely to my compulsion and build up an extensive collection of women’s clothing, which I would enjoy whenever the desire took me – which would be almost daily. Then at other times I’d be so disgusted with myself, I’d take every scrap of female clothing I owned and burn it. I couldn’t bring myself to passing it on to charity shops even. When I was in the latter phase, no matter how many times I washed them, they would seem tainted and worthless, just as I felt myself.

It had never been something I could talk about to people. My parents found out once or twice and gave me such a righteous laying in to that I couldn’t help but feel the hideous wrongness of it all. And how do you bring something like that up in polite conversation?

“Hi I like to dress up in women’s clothing. I hope you don’t find that weird, ‘cos I’d love you to help me figure out why.”

I wondered if I was just a transvestite – if I just had a fetishist thing for the soft, the sweet-smelling, the sensuous and the stunningly beautiful – but it became more than that. Maybe my first attraction was to the clothes, but it fed a deeper part of me. I felt more right when I was dressed up; until my other half caught up with me, when I would feel all wrong about it.

The thing is, I was going through a purge then. It was what was stifling my creativity. I write romance novels – not the Mills and Boon sweet literary saccharine, but not Shakespeare either. I do so best when I can get in touch with my feminine side, but my feminine side likes to dress the part, and I was currently going through a phase of feeling horribly guilty about all that. I’d burnt my bras, along with all my other girly things, a few weeks previously and had been struggling to find my muse since.

Now here I was, faced with a wardrobe full of satin and lace. It seemed that when the owner or occupier of this farmhouse wore a skirt or a dress, she did so to great effect. My inner self was crying out to me with sheerest longing, especially for that midnight blue, silky dress. It was trimmed with white lace at the hem and around the bodice and was so exquisitely beautiful I could barely control myself.

-oOo-

The purge won – this round at least. I slammed the wardrobe door closed and looked around for anything else that I might wear instead. My eyes fell on a fluffy white dressing gown hanging on the back of the door. It was feminine still, but it would do.

I slipped it on and found that its rightful owner wasn’t that different in height to myself. The length of the sleeves and the way it fell to my ankles was just right. There was a pair of slippers as well. Fluffy straps as the front, with a slight heel and nothing to hold them on elsewhere. My own feet aren’t immense and the slippers weren’t far off being a good match either.

Snuggled into the soft fabric and with my feet insulated from the stone floor, I began to feel better. I glanced out the window at a thick flurry of snow, swirling around outside. I stepped closer and took in the full view – as much of it as there was. The snow was thick and beginning to lay already. It seemed the driver had been right. I was stuck here for a few days at least.

Chances were the things Martin had promised to send up wouldn’t make it to me until the weather cleared either, and that left me with either my wet things – assuming I could dry them well enough in a short time – or the contents of the wardrobe.

I wondered what had happened to the owner of the house. Why had she abandoned the place? Why didn’t she take her things with her? I felt guilty about borrowing her dressing gown and slippers even, but I managed to persuade myself that this was an emergency and that I needed to keep warm.

Warmth. I needed to put the heating on and I had no idea. I thought about the answer-phone message. Chances were it was for me, I mean who else was living out here? The thing was, what if I was wrong?

Again I pleaded safety and warmth. If it was Martin on the other end, or someone else with information on how to run this place, I needed it now.

The phone chose that moment to ring.

Thanks to the slippers, I speed-shuffled more than ran into the hall and grabbed the receiver.

“Hello?”

“Hi Mark. You made it alright then.”

I wasn’t going to tell him about my recent adventures. I stayed quiet and waited for him t tell me something of use.

“I wasn’t sure if you were going to get there before the snow. From the forecast, it’s likely to fall overnight and then several more times over the next few days. They plough the roads when they can, but from what I can make out, they tend to wait until the snow’s stopped falling before they do that. You’re likely to be stuck there for a week at least before the pass is clear, and I don’t know how long before they get up the road to you.

“Still, you should be alright. There’s fuel enough for the winter and you’re pretty well stocked up on food.”

“Yeah. What about the stuff you were going to send me?”

“Ah. Well it’s on its way, but I doubt it’ll get through to you till the weather clears. Look, is it really going to make that much difference? You’re on your own up there, and when the heating gets going, you’re not going to need to wear a whole lot.”

“Perhaps you could tell me how to fire up the boiler then, because this place is freezing.”

Martin led me through the process, and the place seemed to start warming up almost immediately. I’m sure it was largely psychological, but just knowing that heat was on its way helped me feel better.

He took me through food storage and preparation – what was where and how to cook it – then he took me through the rest of the house and what I might find there.

“Yeah,” I interrupted. “What’s the deal here? I mean the place looks like someone’s home. How come I get to stay here, and where’s the owner?”

“Don’t be squeamish,” Martin said. “The owner died a couple of weeks ago. Sad story. Love triangle gone bad – she took her own life apparently. Story seems right up your street actually. Maybe you could give it a go.”

“This is a dead woman’s place?”

“Actually it belongs to her brother now, which is why we were able to rent it for such a good price. The place will take a lot more wear and tear if it’s stuck out in the elements with no-one living in it, so it’s better for you to stay put.”

“But there’s all her stuff here and everything.”

“So what? Make up another room or something. There’s bedding around the place.”

“And what am I supposed to wear?”

“What do I care? Go naked, wear the stuff you have until it goes grubby. Dress up in her clothes if you feel like it. You’re up there on your own and it’s not going to make a blind bit of difference what you decide to do.

“All I really care about is that you get that bloody book written and to me. The place has broadband. The router’s in the living room. Email me the chapters as you write them and I’ll proof them as we go. If we can get a book out of you by the middle of next month, I’ll be a happy bunny.”

“Yeah, and I’ll have missed Christmas.”

“Sorry, not much I can do about that. If you’re lucky, she may have some turkey in the freezer somewhere. Either way you’re stuck up there for the festivities.”

“You planned this didn’t you?”

“I planned to get you in an out of the way place so you could concentrate on writing. Yes there was a pretty good chance you’d be up there over Christmas, but I did not plan to strand you in an empty house with no way of escape. Neither did I plan for you to spend Christmas on your own. This weather blew up this afternoon while you were on the train. I haven’t had a chance to talk to you since I found out how bad it was going to be because the phone service is so patchy up there.

“Look mate, you’re going to have to make the best of it. You have a week, or a couple of weeks before anyone gets to you, so you might as well get your computer out and get writing. You have your change of venue, and you have no distractions, so I’ll expect your first chapter in couple of days, okay?”

No distractions. Right. I look down at my pink fluffy feet and the white fluffy dressing gown that covers much of the intervening space. The place is full of distractions – temptations I won’t be able to resist.

“I’ll see what I can do Martin. I’ll contact you in a couple of days.”

I put the phone down. The wardrobe is calling to me already, and however I might feel about my tendencies right now, I doubt I’ll be able to resist the temptation for long. Best to get it over with. My defences were crumbling and I was already capitulating to my inner desires. I’d want to do this properly, which meant I needed to start in the bathroom.

-oOo-

At last someone had come. Two weeks had seemed like an eternity, especially since she’d half-expected to be only the beginning of a far longer wait. People didn’t come up here often, and especially not at this time of year.

Her death hadn’t gone unnoticed, but then that wasn’t a surprise. She talked to her brother twice a week, so when she had missed a couple of calls, he started to worry and asked the police to send a car up here. They’d found her lying in her bed with an empty bottle of sleeping pills beside her.

A coward’s way out. A woman’s death – no pain, not fuss – just gently fall asleep and it’s all over.

The autopsy would have shown the contents of the bottle half dissolved in her stomach and filling her blood stream, and they would have inferred the obvious. Woman in love, jilted and distraught, empties a bottle of pills down her throat. End of story.

Only it hadn’t been like that.

If only she could let someone know. Her death had been sad, but inevitable. Another death in a similar vein would be a tragedy, and an avoidable one if only she could find a way to communicate.

But how? He was a man and she was, or at least had been, a woman. They thought differently. They felt differently. She’d never understood men – never been able to communicate with them – and if she’d found it difficult to do when she’d had a mouth to speak with, how was she going to manage it now?

She’d been upset when he’d first arrived. He’d been half dead with cold, it was true, and that should have been a good time to attempt to communicate. But then he’d stripped off all his clothes and started wandering through the house stark naked. People just didn’t do that sort of thing where she came from.

This was where she came from, and he had done it, so evidence to the contrary.

Then he’d started going through her things. They were her things! What right did he have to go through her things? And then what had he been doing with those jeans? It was obvious they weren’t going to fit him, so why was he even trying? Even she’d struggled to put them on, and he was definitely bigger than she was. Especially between the legs.

She’d missed her chance to talk to him. It had to be when they were both thinking and feeling the same sort of thing, like when he’d been half dead and she’d been all the way dead. But then he’d been shivering and hunting through her clothes like that, and she’d been so outraged.

It had been a relief when all he did was put on her dressing gown and slippers. She could live with that just about. Then the phone had rung and she’d lost her opportunity entirely. She’d have to find some other way of getting through to him.

She drifted through the house and half listened to his half of the conversation. Nothing useful there. She’d followed him into the kitchen and watched as he fired up that old boiler of her dad’s. She’d tried to communicate then, putting over her love and pride for the man who had built so much of this farm, but the man trying to spark the pilot light into life had no appreciation for such fine craftsmanship and her efforts rebounded.

She barely heard the last half of the conversation, but she caught the glint in his eye as he put the phone down. There was a sense of renewed purpose about him. A resignation and an excitement sitting inside him which she couldn’t quite understand.

It was strange being dead. She seemed better able to read people’s feelings, as though they were some glowing core to their being. She hadn’t been able to practice on many people – just the driver and passengers on the bus – but she’d sensed a truth in what she saw.

This was different though. There was a war going on inside this young man, and he was fighting both sides. She could see what he felt, but she didn’t understand why.

Through habit, he’d closed the bathroom door as he entered. She stood outside, frustrated by her own puritanical nature, but then she reasoned that she had already seen him completely naked. She willed herself through the door and gasped at what she found.

-oOo-

I found everything I needed easily enough. Whoever had owned this place – what had the drive said her name was? Teresa? – had been the owner of a very feminine nature – much like his own, he realised. He’d found scented bath pearls, bath salts, bath oils, scented candles – you name it, he’d found it. Right now a generous dollop of all things floral was mingling with hot water from the taps to make a bath full of delights.

I was looking forward to a good, long, hot relax, and I was very pleasantly surprised at the speed with which the water system had come up to temperature. I had something important to do first though, and I’d found the materials for that too.

The razor was different form the one I used. It was pink for a start, and it felt a lot cheaper and more plastic. Not wanting to do this with a naked blade, I’d searched for, found and applied a sort of shaving gel. It made the shaving easier, but it used up the razor really quickly.

It took nearly an hour, but I was pleased with the result. The bath water was piping hot and just right to sooth my smooth, stinging flesh. While I was in the bath, I attacked my armpit and chest hair as well.

The bath did wonders for me, and I emerged an hour later feeling like a new man – or rather not. Felling remade in any case. It may have been the different situation, or a whole bunch of things, but there were a couple of times when it actually felt like I was being watched. Not by anything malevolent, but just watched. I had a few ideas as to what it might have been, but it turned out I was wrong in every one.

There’s something about naked, hairless flesh, though, that’s oh so sensual. In a loved one it’s special enough, but on yourself, mmnn…

The oils had softened my skin and subtly scented it with some unidentifiable – at least by me – floral perfume. Even with the heat on, the cottage felt colder without my body hair, but that was probably just because it was hyper-sensitised. I walked back to the bedroom, feeling every least motion of the dressing gown.

I wasn’t going to feel guilty about this, I told myself. Between them, Martin and Mother Nature had conspired to stick me up here with no clothes of my own and a week or maybe two of living on my own with no-one to judge or to criticise. At this end of the fortnight, I could tweeze my eyebrows and be relatively sure that they would have grown back by the time I was back out in public.

I did work on my face a little bit, but before I did, I rummaged in the dresser drawers, hunting out a few base garments. The bra was baggy and, since it was only going to be me looking at it and its contents, I elected simply to shorten the straps. I did have slight lumps there – left over from when I’d carried a little more weight than I do now – so there was a bit of cleavage without trying. The knickers were of the ‘sensible’ variety and accommodated mini me without much jiggling. They were Marks and Sparks specials too, which meant a liberal scattering of lace trim. The tights went on over the underwear, and they stretched easily enough to settle into place without showing any unfortunate ‘saggy crotch’ syndrome. The gentle caress of the nylon against his leg aroused renewed feelings in him

I spent quite a while sitting in front of the dressing table mirrors, looking at myself in every possible way. I’d pulled out a few eyebrow hairs – enough to tidy things up without looking unnecessarily girly. I’d also tried some of the makeup that was there. It was pretty obvious what did what, especially to someone who’s had an unnatural interest in it for so much of his life, but it was hard putting it on in a way that looked subtle and effective. I went for less in the end and achieved a look that just about worked.

The hair was a bit of a disappointment, being short as it was. I tried things with some hair gel I found in the bathroom, and again just about managed a hairstyle that was about as feminine as it was possibly masculine.

Then came the moment of truth – the culmination to all this. I reached into the wardrobe for the blue dress, undid the zips and clasps and stepped into it.

Guilt didn’t come into it for the first time in such a long time – possibly in forever. Being isolated meant I didn’t have to worry about other people. The dress felt magical, and when I looked in the mirror, I was delighted. Sure the hair and the makeup left a bit to be desired, but overall, the person looking back out felt like me.

I know that sounds like an odd thing to say. I mean whatever you feel like, it must be you right? It’s not the case though. It’s sort of feeling comfortable in your own skin. Like this it was how I felt I ought to be, or at least something close, and it made me feel wonderful.

The bit of me that ultimately defines me as male, at least in body, stood up rigidly to attention. It wouldn’t have taken much to push it over the edge, but I knew that at least part of the guilt I so often felt was when I did just that. I tried a trick I’d read about and flicked it in the truly sensitive bit. To my surprise, it withdrew into its lacy cage.

It had been a long day, with more than enough adventures for any twenty-four hours. I decided I deserved something to eat, so headed for the kitchen. A pair of ballet flats protected my feet from the cold stone. They were a little small, but not noticeably so, given the soft material from which they were made. I found an apron and put it on to protect the gorgeous dress I was wearing, and I set about making myself an early dinner. It didn’t take long, and somehow it tasted sooo much better than usual.

When I was done eating and washing up, I decided that perhaps I could do a bit of work. I could feel the creative juices coursing through me, and feeling like this I fully expected a new novel to come as fast as Martin might want.

I found a comfortable spot in the lounge and set up my computer. I’d already located the router and copied the details I needed to get connected onto a piece of paper. I wouldn’t need the Internet immediately, but it was always good to have it available when writing. I resisted the temptation to check my emails or open a game, but instead opened new word processor document.

-oOo-

She’d always thought she was slow to judge, but this was just plain weird. She’d been shocked to find him shaved almost hairless, and doubly so when she’d seen him lower himself into the scented bathwater. For a while, she closed off her mind to him, not wanting anything to do with such a pervert. It sickened her to think that her things were at the mercy of this freak of nature, and she wanted nothing to do with him.

Death had brought about some odd changes though. She was now better able to see other peoples’ perspectives in things, and it was in this way she began to feel the feminine side to him rising to the surface. He was so immersed in the sensation, she actually began to see possible connections, and she reached out to him.

They were gentle touches, but they were touches. She had time, and she felt certain that she would find more ways of connecting with this unusual man.

She couldn’t help laughing at his attempts in front of her dressing table mirror. They reminded her of her first dabble with face paints, when she’d taken some of her mother’s mascara and lipstick, and had transformed herself into the most grotesque doll. He learned quickly though, and on his third or was it forth try, he came away looking halfway presentable.

When he climbed into the dress though, he came alive. Or rather she did, because this creature in her blue dress was definitely no longer male. Perhaps in physical form, but in the way that mattered, in spirit, what sang out was pure girl.

She danced with her new friend into the kitchen, touching her mind here and there with the subtlest hints where to find the salt, the oil, the plates. All the little details helped to build that link that would inevitably lead to her goal.

The food was so good, she could almost share the flavour, and then after…

She’d always hated mess. Hated dirty dishes in the sink. Hated the kitchen left with crumbs and all the debris that results from food preparation. Her natural instinct would have been to clear it up as soon as the meal was done. She might have tried to influence him too, had he not automatically cleaned up his things and left the kitchen looking immaculate.

The she inside of him was perfect. There were levels of intimacy and matching personality that made her ideal for what she had in mind. She watched as he set up his computer and settled in front of it. Comfortable position, but not too comfortable. Glass of water to one side. Seated with his legs together, looking so much like the girl she knew he was inside.

He opened the word processor and stared at the blank page, waiting for inspiration.

She gave it to him.

-oOo-

I didn’t remember going to bed. In fact I didn’t remember anything much of the previous evening. I remembered the meal, and cleaning up after it, but nothing after sitting down in front of the computer.

Now I’ve had evenings like that before when things have blanked out, but it’s always been when I’ve been overtired and I’ve woken up the next morning with a strange pattern on the side of my face where I’d been asleep on the keyboard.

This was different. I was in bed, and I was wearing something diaphanous and soft. I threw the bedclothes back and swung my legs over the side of the bed. The kept together naturally and somehow it felt less uncomfortable than when I usually did something like that. Sorry of the double negative but it applied in this case.

I found the pink fluffy slippers and slipped my feet into them. They seemed to fit better – perhaps a sign that I was stretching them. I padded quietly over to the dressing table and sat down in front of it. I’d been afraid of what might be there, but the makeup was gone, cleaned off before I’d gone to bed. I certainly didn’t remember doing that.

I put a brush to my hair and started tugging at it. Was it my imagination, or did there seem to be more of it? It certainly settled into a more feminine style with less work, and that pleased me inordinately.

Nature coughed gently to get my attention, and I responded to her call. There was so much of the nightdress, I had a struggle lifting it up and out of the way. I sat to pee as I usually did and stared down at an oddly smaller part of my anatomy. Forget mini me, this was now heading towards micro me. As a man, I should have been horrified, but it didn’t bother me in the slightest. In fact if anything, I was pleased.

Once I’d finished my business, I cupped my equipment in my hand to try and gauge if there really had been any change. I mean it tends to change size depending on the weather or a whole bunch of other things. I couldn’t be absolutely sure, but the whole kit and caboodle did feel smaller.

I flushed, washed my hands, and headed back to the bedroom for my dressing gown. Next I headed for the kitchen for a much needed caffeine fix. Things were more than a little off, and I needed a little extra something to help me understand it all.

A flashing light in the hallway caught my eye while I was waiting for the kettle to boil. I stuck my head through the door to investigate and noticed the answering machine was flashing again. I pushed the playback button and Martin’s effusive voice entered my world.

“Michael, this is bloody fantastic. I don’t know where you got the idea from, but if this is what sending you to the back of beyond does for you, I’m buying you a cottage in the Outer Hebrides. Can’t wait for more. Keep it coming.”

The kettle clicked off and I filled the cafetiere. One tray, one jug of milk, one mug, one jug of coffee doing its thing. No need for sugar – I’m sweet enough, as my mum always used to say. I carried everything through to my temporary desk in the lounge and woke my computer up.

-oOo-

The next I knew, it was lunchtime. The cafetiere was empty, and I was wearing a very attractive, burgundy, woollen dress. My computer showed my email screen, which had an unread email from Martin.

“Keep it coming. At this rate you’ll have a book ready for the shops by the end of the week. This one might make you as well. Way to step up your game, mate.”

I opened the sent items folder and read through the two emails I’d sent Martin. The style was unmistakably mine, but I had no recollection of writing the words.

I headed for the kitchen and made myself a sandwich. Chicken salad, which is almost unheard of for me. No butter, no mayo, but then a girl’s go to watch her figure.

Where the hell did that come from?

I switched to tea. Too much caffeine can’t be good for you.

I sat back down at the keyboard and put my fingers to the keys.

-oOo-

It was morning again and I didn’t remember anything of the previous day, except lunch. I went straight to my computer, ignored Martin’s email – almost certainly some more effervescent spouting on how marvellous I was – and opened the most recent message in the sent folder.

I had no idea where this story was coming from, but it was amazing. A girl alone on a Highland farm. She meets a stranger and falls in love. They spend a fantastic summer together – her love growing by the day, his seeming to also. She begins to believe she’s found Mr Right.

I’m not doing it justice. There was passion and precision in the tiny details, and I could all but see the pale, slender girl, running in delight across the field, her raven hair streaming behind her, glancing behind to see a powerful man chasing her across the hillside.

I wanted to get back to writing this, however I was doing it, but nature was calling again. More insistent this time than the previous morning. Again it seemed like things were changing down there, and what was that hair that fell into my field of vision when I lowered my head?

I hurried to the mirror. My hair was definitely tickling my shoulders now, and it was darker, just as my skin was paler and my features smaller. How was this happening?

I went back to the computer and sat down.

-oOo-

The whole day passed without my noticing it. If I dressed and ate at all, I had no memory. I was in bed again with the sun streaming in through opened curtains. The snow was deep and crisp, and – yes you guessed it – even, and the sun was shining from a powder blue sky.

I rushed to do my morning ablutions, only dimly aware that I had almost nothing between my legs. Back in my bedroom, I pulled on that pair of jeans that hadn’t had a hope of fitting a few days previously, and a pair of boots that were snug but comfortable. A thick woolly jumper that fell almost to my knees completed the set and I ran out to enjoy the morning.

After an hour I was cold enough that I wanted to come back in. Back at my computer the world vanished again, and I knew nothing until I woke up to another bright day.

-oOo-

There was something different about this day though. I could feel weights on my chest that I hadn’t noticed before – perhaps because I had my own pseudo-boobs, but now they were noticeably larger. My visit to the bathroom revealed a complete renovation of my plumbing, and a subsequent examination in the mirror showed a complete change in appearance.

The Michael I had been was no longer there, every last semblance having been completely replaced by the dark haired girl I’d seen in my mind’s eye.

I checked my computer and found that a full twenty chapters had been sent through to Martin, each of them eliciting an enthusiastic response. The date in the bottom corner showed the twenty-fifth. I’d lost an entire week, but somehow gained an entire book.

I spent the day reading through it. It was a love story more passionate than any I’d written before, but it had a dark twist in the end. The man who had so loved the heroine of the story, turned away from her towards the end. He showed a darker side to his nature which grew until he came to her one rainy afternoon, drugged her, dressed her in her bedclothes and poured a bottle of sleeping pills down her throat, leaving her for the police to find some days later.

It ended with a restless spirit looking for a way to tell her story. With an author sitting down to write a story in the same house where she had been murdered. With a joining of spirits for just one week.

-oOo-

She looked at the girl he had now become. The physical change in him had been unconscious on her part, but it seemed to be for the best. The girl’s body better suited the person who had enabled her to tell her story, and she hoped he would be glad of the change.

There would be questions, none of which would have answers, and there would be evidence which should lead to an arrest, and safety for any other girls who might meet the man who had killed her.

She no longer had a reason to stay. The author had given her a gift in enabling her to tell her story. She had given him a gift in enabling him to become the person he was inside.

She pondered the rightness of things as she faded from this world and entered the next. It was Christmas and a time for the giving and receiving of gifts.

-Fin-