schroedinger

Copyright © 2011 Maeryn Lamonte – All Rights Reserved.

Randomly male/female, thirties, seeks similar aged, attractive, bi-sexual girlfriend. GSOH and sense of adventure essential, no time wasters please.

There’s something about seeing the words you’ve written in print that fills you with a deep satisfaction, even if it is only an entry in the lonely hearts page of the local rag. It’s kind of an affirmation of life, a recognition, an acknowledgement from the world at large that you exist. And you have to admit that my words stood out a little from the rest.

Oddly though, it wasn’t the strangest one there, in my opinion at least. Mind you, I guess if I were ‘hermaphrodite dwarf seeks sheep impersonator for long walks on the beach’, I might be thinking the same sort of thing about my own entry. It’s all a matter of perspective.

I threw the paper on the table and sighed. It really was a long shot, but I needed someone in my life. After three months of self-imposed reclusion I was going stir crazy, but, not having anyone to turn to, at least no-one who would understand, or just plain not freak out, I had to at least try and reach out, if only to try and reduce the number of commas tripping up my thought process.

“Give it a week”, they said, “then check your mailbox.”

I’d managed three months, what was another week?

-oOo-

“You have, ONE, message.” Automated voice mail machines seem to have the sexiest voices, right up until that point where they splice in the variables. Not cool realising you’re having an erotic fantasy about a machine. “To listen to your message, press one.”

Of course I want to listen to my message you pointless lump of silicon! What other options were you going to offer me? ‘To ignore the message that you’re paying an exorbitant amount of money to receive, press two’? I stabbed at the button, more irritated at the low response to my ad than anything else. Knowing my luck, this would probably be ‘cuddly and desperate stalker chick seeks new prey’.

“Hi, I’m Sandy.” If the sound of her voice was anything to go by, I didn’t know my luck. “You sound like my kind of weird. I’ll be at Albino’s down at the wharf at seven o’clock on Friday night. Why don’t you buy one of those drinks with an umbrella in it and put the decoration in your hair? I’ll come find you.”

Sounded promising. It was Friday night and just gone six. I had enough time to get myself ready and get down there, just. Since I was in girl mode, I picked out an eye-catchingly short pleated leather miniskirt, a white crop top and my biker jacket. Thigh length boots over fishnets completed the outfit. Enough brushing to make the tangled state of my chestnut hair look intentional, a bit of kohl around the eyes and a deep red lipstick. Not a look you can easily overdo, and quick when you’re in a rush. The mirror on the wall assured me I was the smoking-hottest of them all, as I grabbed my bag and ran for the door.

-oOo-

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the bar… Which was why I was sitting there, a very definite bloke in a very short skirt and boots that pinched a little. An occasional person pointed me out and laughed, which was why I had chosen an outside table in a shaded corner. Since I was there though, I figured what the hey and bought that drink. Having a little paper brolly in my hair wasn’t going to make me look much more ridiculous. I decided to give her ’til half past, then I’d bugger off home.

A leather miniskirt walked up to my table. It didn’t have pleats, so not as nice as mine. Below, long slender, nylon-clad legs led down to a pair of elegant, but incongruously pink, heels. Above it was a biker tee shirt hiding – barely – a very nice pair of melons. Honeydews rather than cantaloupes, but then I’ve always been of the opinion that more than a handful’s a waste. They were about the same size as mine when I have them. Unfortunately my top was flat against my chest at that moment and stretched a little tight across slightly broader shoulders than I had when I started out. My eyes liked the view, but my mind knew it would be impolite to linger. I went higher still until I found a pair of ice blue eyes, framed by a wavy avalanche of ash blond hair and sitting on top of a brilliant white smile.

“Hi, I’m Sandy,” the voice from my, ONE, message said. “I’m assuming you’re randomly male-stroke-female?”

I nodded, barely able to believe my sheer, dumb luck. She took it as an invitation and sat opposite. She already had a drink to match my own, which meant I didn’t have to brave the angry stares and ridicule in the bar, and for that I was grateful.

“Go on, I’ll bite,” she said. “That’s a really cute skirt, but why are you wearing it?”

“Ah, the obvious questions first eh?” flippant seemed to work with her. I was feeling far from relaxed, but she smiled encouragingly, so I continued. “How’s your understanding of quantum physics?”

-oOo-

“Be gentle with me,” she breathed, leaning forward and giving me a prime view of her assets. This is where the pleats come in handy you understand? When Mr Rogers stands to attention, there’s less to constrict his movements. Less uncomfortable, but potentially more embarrassing, unless you happen to have a table to hide under.

“Er,” I manage, struggling to wrest cognitive control back from my dumbstick. “Have you heard of Schrödinger’s cat?”

“He’s the one that plays the piano isn’t he? I didn’t know he had a cat.”

“What? Oh, Charlie Brown. No, that’s Schroeder. Er, this may be a little too complicated.”

“No, I’m just messing with you. I’ve heard of it – cat in a box with some radioactive poison or something isn’t it? I never quite understood it, so go on, educate me. Not too long or complicated though. I’m more interested in how it ties into your fishnet tights and fuck-me boots.”

“Er…” Her attention and attitude were unnerving. “I-I-I’m not sure anyone understands it really; I’m certainly not sure I do. Quantum mechanics is seriously weird.”

I made an effort to order my thoughts, then dived in, allowing my inner nerd to override my outer nervousness.

“One of the difficulties with quantum physics – for which read the physics of the reeeaaalllly small – is that subatomic particles seem to behave a bit like particles of matter and a bit like energy waves. It makes it really hard to predict what they’re going to do, and this is born out through experiment. One of the early theories of quantum mechanics suggests that particles don’t exist in one state or another, but rather in both states at the same time. They exist as probability wave forms and only become definitively one thing or the other when they are observed, the act of observation in effect causing them to become what we see.”

I looked at her uncertainly, but she nodded her head, indicating some degree of so far so good.

“A guy called Erwin Schrödinger had a problem with this and proposed a thought experiment to suggest how quantum duality, which works on a sub-microscopic scale, could be magnified to a macro scale, where conventional mechanics would argue that it’s not possible.

“He suggested an experiment where a small amount of radioactive substance is placed next to a Geiger counter, the output of which is connected to a mechanism that releases a small quantity of poison. If this apparatus is placed in an enclosed, steel box along with a live cat, then we are unable to observe what happens to the cat. Quantum physics tells us that we cannot know whether or not the radioactive substance has decayed or not, so it exists in a dual quantum state of decayed and not decayed until it can be observed. This means that, since the decay triggers the release of the poison, the cat too, must exist in a dual state of alive and dead. Since there is no evidence of dual states existing in the macro world we live in, the experiment contradicts the theory.

“Personally, I don’t understand why the cat can’t do its own observing.”

“Yeeeaaaahh. I kind of get it, but like I said, what’s that got to do with this get up?”

“Well, it turns out that quantum physics is weirder shit still than whatever shit Schrödinger was smoking.

“About three months ago, one of the local labs advertised for human subjects to take part in an experiment. There were a bunch of us who applied, but none of the others seemed interested after they explained the nature of the experiment. The money was fantastic though – part of it went to pay for this outfit – and from what I understood of quantum mechanics, I didn’t think I was in any danger, so I volunteered.

“What they were proposing was a variation on Schrödinger’s cat. They had tried the full traditional experiment – yeah, sorry if you’re a cat lover – but if there was such a thing as duality, it collapsed too quickly for them to measure, and they just ended up with a lot of cats. Some alive and some… Yeah I know.”

From her expression she had sympathy for the cats.

“So they redesigned the experiment using a different apparatus, and they asked for human volunteers so we could describe what was happening to us. Since no-one was likely to volunteer to be poisoned, they looked for something else they could change. Something obvious that test subjects couldn’t hide even if they wanted to. In the end they chose a technique – top secret you understand? No details – that disintegrates the Y chromosome in each of the subject’s cells and replaces it with a copy of the existing X chromosome.

“They got me to sit in a chair in a totally enclosed room for an hour, and for that I earned twenty grand. They had the same idea as me about the subject of the experiment being the observer, so they sedated me until I was on the edge of losing consciousness; not really aware of what was happening, but perhaps able to recall things after the fact. Don’t ask me, I didn’t design the experiment.

“I think they were hoping I’d recall some period during my time in the room when I was aware of a dual state, but I don’t remember any of that. They interrogated me at length when it was all over, even put me into a hypnotic state so they could dig through my subconscious memories, but nothing.

“They also had me check in with them on a daily basis for the next month to see if there were any physical changes. They took tissue from various parts of my body each time I visited, checking for chromosomal changes. There were a couple of times when the sample seemed to show XX, but when they rechecked, it turned out to be a false alarm. Eventually they declared the experiment a bust and let me loose.

Talking is thirsty work and I’d drained my rum and fruit a while back. I reached out to grab a bartender as he drifted past collecting empties and ordered Sandy and myself a couple of refills. He recoiled a bit when he noticed I was a bloke in a dress, but a sale is a sale so he took my money and headed off to mix my drink.

“And so after nothing happened, you decided to experiment a little for yourself?” There was a hint of tease, but it was a genuine question so my defensive walls stayed down for once.

“Not exactly. It’s just that it took a while longer than expected for the changes to become noticeable.

“What I kind of figure happened is that the experiment worked, and I am now a highly complex, dual state probability wave function. I think in the macro state a wave function has to be observed precisely in order for it to collapse completely, and the guys at the lab weren’t really looking when they examined me. What makes me flip-flop from one state to the other is being observed. When people expect to encounter the male me, for example when my parents call, then their expectations push me into the male state. When people think they see a girl, then I take that form. There’s a little bit of influence from my expectations and self-awareness in there as well, but I haven’t quite figured out how that fits in.”

“Wait, are you telling me you actually switch between what you are now and… and something else?”

I nodded. “The guys at the lab figured that if I had all my Ys swapped for Xs then my testes would stop working and my body would stop making testosterone; at least nowhere near as much. Their estimate was that as my body upped oestrogen manufacture to compensate, they’d see evidence of change after two or three weeks. What they didn’t count on was that I was flipping between states and spending less than half my time in XX mode. As a result the hormonal changes took more than twice as long to show results. Also because they were knew me as a guy, they more than half-expected to deal with me as a guy, and pushed me into my XY state pretty much every time they tested my tissue.

“In any case, by the time I got to the end of the second month after the experiment, I was very definitely looking like girl like a lot of the time. You know small breasts, thinner waist, wider hips, more hair on top, less on the chin and below, softer skin, larger eyes and slightly softer lines to my face.”

“That is just freaky.”

“Tell me about it. Then this last month, the girly aspects have become somewhat, er, enhanced,” I made motions like I was hefting a couple of weights against me chest, “and I had to start buying girl clothes to fit the new me. That kind of got addictive after a while.”

“Well you have great taste in girl clothes; very sexy. Tell me, how quickly does the change take place?”

“Well it’s kind of like I have two states. My old male state and the developing female one. Flipping between the states is pretty much instantaneously.”

A hungry look entered her eyes and she looked me up and down pretty much how I imagine a wolf checks out a lamb. I felt my chest balloon out in front of me and the rest of my body relax into a slightly smaller, softer shape. The flagpole under the table withered to almost nothing, but at least my clothes fit me better.

“Did you do that?”

“Probably. I kind of imagined you as a girl, and the change happened just after. You know this is way cool. We could have so much fun with this.”

The barman turned up with our drinks and gave me a double take, then a triple. He rather shakily put our glasses on the table while I smiled sweetly up at him and thanked him. He backed off, wide eyed and panicking, then all but ran for the safety of his bar.

“I see what you mean,” I said as Sandy and I doubled up laughing.

-oOo-

Eventually we quietened down and she gave me a speculative look.

“What?”

“I was just wondering how much of a girl you are under there.” She slipped a foot out of one of her shoes and a playful toe appeared, rubbing up the inside of my thigh.

There was no response from Mr Rogers, now in much diminished form, but there was a new feeling inside of me; sort of warm and glowing.

“Not all the way yet, but I get the feeling things are still changing.”

“So, why did you put on a skirt tonight if you were in guy mode?”

“I wasn’t. I woke up this morning as a girl, and when I listened to your message earlier this evening, I was still a girl. It just seemed natural to dress like this. Then halfway here I kept thinking about how I was going to meet this girl with a beautiful voice and I guess the guy in me took over.”

“So you like my voice? What do you think of the rest of me?”

“Do I even need to say anything? You are gorgeous and you turn me on as both a man and a woman.”

“And where do you think this is going?” She waved a finger between the both of us.

“I don’t know. I hoped we could get to know each other a little and see whether we could make anything from what we have.”

“Sounds like fun.” She slid around the bench seat until she was sitting beside me, reached up a delicate hand to stroke my soft, hairless cheek, kissed me softly on the lips, lipstick to lipstick.

“Damn, there go my boobs.”

“Well if they’re gone…” She reached under my skirt. “Mmnn. This is one quantum state I think we are going to have to keep.”

I barely heard her, trying as I was, with all my strength, not to find myself having to investigate the difficulties of removing certain stains from leather.

“Did you know your eyes actually cross when I do that?”

No I didn’t. Please stop. Please don’t stop. That was the gist of the thought process. What actually made it to the surface was, “Nngh.”

Sandy slid under the table and lifted my skirt, pulled down my skimpies enough to free Mr Rogers and wrapped her lips around him. She didn’t have to do much more. She came up from the shadows a few seconds later and murmured in my ear.

“Mnn, salty. Sorry about that, I’m not usually so forward on a first date, but you are such a turn on.”

The barman walked past at that moment, giving us a suspicious look.

“Hello sweetie,” I said in my graveliest voice and winked at him, sending him literally running back to the shelter of his bar again.

I kissed Sandy, tasting a bit of myself on her lips. Not sure I was so into that, but I wasn’t going to complain about what she’d just done for me.

“We’d better get out of here before he freaks out and calls someone. I’d hate to have that lab interested in me again.”

“Okay, think girl for me.” She stared into my eyes and, with both of us trying, the change happened quickly and easily. She cupped one of my boobs and I gasped all over again. Wow, they were sensitive.

We left the bar arm in arm, giving the barman one final wave and helping him just a step closer to his nervous breakdown.

-oOo-

We made our way round a few bars and clubs, Sandy proving to be quite inventive in finding ways to freak people out. In the last bar, a couple of guys approached us and offered to buy us drinks. Sandy accepted for both of us and twenty minutes later we were sharing a table with them showing us a little more attention than either of us really wanted. You know leaning into our space, taking liberties with their hands, that sort of thing?

I was feeling seriously uncomfortable, as most heterosexual guys would in that sort of situation. Then, just as my half of the dynamic duo was distracted by a passing skirt, Sandy gave me her appraising look and a second later, I flipped state. Jerkov brother number one turned his attention back to me and I did the only thing I could think of.

“Dude, you know I’m a guy don’t you?” I spoke in my gruffest guy voice and was rewarded with the guy jumping backwards, twenty feet into a crowded dance floor. Sandy’s half of the idiot twins went to the aid of his companion and we took advantage of the confusion to duck out onto the streets, laughing fit to wet ourselves.

I probably should have been angry with her for putting me in that situation, but the result had been such a piece of comedy that I couldn’t hold a grudge. Besides, if I was going to get used to the new me in public, I was going to have to get over my fears. We were both a little beyond half cut as we meandered off down the street, leaning on each other for support. The club scene was pretty much done with, so we headed off towards her apartment, since it was closer than mine.

-oOo-

I woke up with a face full of pussy.

No! Shit, you have such a dirty mind. I mean a cat jumped on me, insisting I pay it some attention. When I pushed it away and collapsed back into my post somnolent haze, it changed tactics and started kneading my bladder until I was forced to roll out of bed and fire up enough brain cells to seek out a bathroom.

I was in Miss Me mode and wearing something I didn’t recognise that was all fluff and fantasy. I found the toilet in an adjoining room, slipped off my underwear and felt between my legs. There wasn’t enough of my little friend to hold, even between finger and thumb, so I sat.

“Morning sleepyhead.” The call followed the flush, so she’d obviously been waiting for signs of life. “There’s a robe hanging on the bathroom door.”

It was thin and silky, but it helped cover the bits that my night attire didn’t – which is to say pretty much all of them. I padded through to cosy little kitchen diner to find Sandy buttering some toast.

“Coffee?”

Ah! the most appreciated early morning greeting in the civilized world. The smell alone cleared the cobwebs from my addled brain; the first taste sent the spiders scurrying too.

“Did we…”

“Yep.”

“Then how come I’m a…”

“I prefer sleeping with girls. Softer, smell nicer, don’t pinch the bedclothes.”

“So you…”

“Pretty much took advantage of you. Yep.” Her smile was far too cheerful for the amount we had both drunk last night, but it was infectious even so and I found myself joining in, albeit reluctantly.

“What time…”

“Ten thirty. I hope you didn’t need to do anything this morning.”

“No, just getting my bearings.” I settled onto the couch, only to be joined by my early morning tormentor. Apparently I had been forgiven for not providing sustenance or affection earlier, either that or I was being given a second chance. A small head butted my elbow forcing me to put down my elixir of life before spillage occurred. I knew the drill. A few seconds application of fingernails behind the ears and under the chin and I had a small, furry seismic event rumbling gently in my lap.

Sandy joined us, toast and coffee in hand. “I see Felicity has introduced herself.” She offered me a slice of toast which I accepted gratefully. “She’s a bit of slut really – anyone’s for a bowl of cat food or a tickle behind the ear. Hey! We made the local news last night. I recorded it. Thought you’d be interested.”

She switched on the TV and fiddled through some menus until eventually she found what she was looking for. An intense looking guy stared into a camera with Albino’s in the background.

“A number of people on the club scene reported unusual sightings last night. Apparently a couple of girls were seen in various bars around the city, this one included, where at least one of the two seemed able to change her sex at will…” Shit. A pox on all slow news days and substance light morning television programs. I tuned out the rest of the report as the implications sunk home.

“What is it, love?”

“That,” I said pointing at the screen. “What do you think the chances are that the buggers at the lab that experimented on me won’t hear of this?” Shock set in as I continued. “They’re going to come looking for their pound of flesh from me and I’m going to spend the rest of my life as a lab rat.”

“Well that’s not going to happen.” Sandy’s face took on a determined expression. “Come on, we can grab a couple of bags of my stuff and run. I have an old VW Hippy van downstairs. Felicity is used to travelling and there’s nothing keeping us here, is there?”

“What about my money?”

“What money?”

“You know? What’s left of the money they gave me?”

“Well, if it’s in a bank, I’d guess they’ve frozen the account by now.”

“It’s not. I don’t trust banks.”

“You mean to say you keep it under your mattress?”

“No, not quite. I put a false back into my mailbox.” She looked at me oddly. “All the mailboxes where I live are on the ground floor, just to the right of the rear entrance, in the laundry room. You open this little door with a key,” I held up my key chain, “and you get your mail. If you prod the top right corner of the back of my mail box real hard, it comes away and there’s a small compartment back there. There’s still about seventeen thousand in there, mostly hundreds, and a few of my more important documents.”

“Well there’s no way you can go back. They’ll be watching, you know? They’d recognise you even looking as you do now.”

I looked down at my very prominent tits. What wasn’t showing above the neckline of the sexy outfit was definitely showing through.

“Yeah, who’s idea was…”

“Yours.”

“And did I put it on before or…”

“Before. Look, can we save that discussion for later. If these guys have any resources, they’ll be knocking down my front door before too long.”

“How about if someone else went in and got the money?”

“Who’d you have in mind? I mean who do you trust?”

“Well, you pretty much. Look they don’t know you yet. If you sneak in through the fire escape at the back – take a box of dirty clothes and a book with you – go to the laundry and load up one of the machines. Coming from upstairs, you’ll look like one of the residents, so they shouldn’t get suspicious. If someone does come in to check on you, you’re just washing your stuff, and waiting for it to run ‘cos you don’t trust some of the people who you live with. If you’re left alone, you open my mailbox and get the cash out. If you’re not, then at least we have some clean clothes to go on the run with.

“Come on. What do you say? You’re a girl, you can change your appearance so they’re less likely to recognise you.”

“Well seventeen grand will come in handy if we’re going to be in the run…”

-oOo-

It took half an hour to do the business on her hair with a bottle of temporary hair dye and a brush. She put together an outfit that was more Goth than Biker Chick, and did makeup to match. In the meantime, I packed up all the stuff she wasn’t prepared to run off without and loaded it into the van. We were gone before anyone came looking. At least we didn’t see anyone obvious.

At my apartment building, there were a couple of suspicious looking, dark SUVs across the road. I drove down a hidden alley behind the building and, by standing on the roof of the van, we were able to grab hold of the fire escape ladder and climb up to the second floor. Sandy disappeared inside and I set about waiting.

The washing machines took just under an hour to do a quick wash, so that was how long we had to stay without rousing suspicion. I sat behind the wheel and bit at my nails, noticing for the first time that at some stage the previous evening we had apparently given them a fairly neutral, if sparkly, pink coating. I slipped my shoes off – well alright, technically Sandy’s shoes, and yes they were a little tight – to find that we had done my toes as well. I’d probably have to check the less accessible parts of my body for tattoos later; there was no telling what Sandy had persuaded me to do with that much rum in me.

Right on time, there was a noise on the fire escape and I started the van. A few short seconds later, Sandy climbed in beside me, dropped the laundry basket of wet clothes into the space behind her and grabbed for the seatbelt.

“Go. Go, go, go already.” No more encouragement necessary. The urgency in her voice had me wanting to wheel-spin away from the scene of the crime – not that it is a crime to steal your own money – but I suppressed it and drove out of the alley and eased gently into the midday traffic.

“So how’d it go?”

She held up an envelope with a couple of bricks of banknotes in it and we both did excited jiggly movements. So much more fun when you’ve got bits that jiggle. Felicity joined in from the cat carrier in the back, though in retrospect I think she may have been telling us how pissed she was at being locked up and on the move.

Also in retrospect it seemed odd that they didn’t have anyone keeping tabs on the back streets. Sandy told me that they had a few guys inside and one of them came to check on her a couple of times while she was doing the laundry, so we put it down to limited resources and thanked our lucky stars that we’d escaped.

-oOo-

It’s amazing how far seventeen grand will stretch if you’re living in a van and eating cheap. When the weather started getting cold, we headed south. My passport had been in the envelope with the money, and Sandy had hers, so crossing borders was no problem, especially if we chose minor ports. Of course I had to be in Mr Me mode when we did so, so we kept a small stash of male clothes with us for just such occasions. For the most part though, Sandy seemed to like me in a skirt or a dress, regardless of whether I was bulging up top or down below, and I have to confess, so did I.

We continued to have fun with the whole mode switching thing, but we were more careful about where and when we did it, so there would be less probability of getting in the papers. We also continued to have more fun in a horizontal mode, and with that we were less careful. About four months after we hit the road, Sandy came back from the camp ground latrines biting her lip and looking uncertain. We packed up and hit the road after breakfast, but she’d been quiet all morning which necessitated an intervention.

“What’s up sweetie?” Sympathy mode seemed so much more natural as a girl – and yes the changes were continuing. All signs of Mr Wiggle and his globular friends were gone when I was in girl mode – which was most of the time – and in their place, things were looking more and more like what she had between her legs. Still that’s a tale for another time.

By way of answer, Sandy rummaged in her bag and pulled out something long, thin and plastic. It had a little window, and in that window was a little blue dot.

Not the sort of news you want to get when you’re driving. Still, I managed to pull the van over without causing too many horns to blare at us.

“How?”

“Oh, the usual way, I imagine.”

“When?”

“About four weeks ago when we treated ourselves to that bed and breakfast for a weekend, I think. I was due a week and a half ago, but I’ve been late before, which is why it took me ’til now to test for it.”

“You know those things…”

“Can give false positives? Yes. I chucked the other five away, kept this one for show and tell.”

“But I thought you…”

“Were on the pill? I must have been careless, I’m sorry.”

“We should have used…”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t feel as good when you’re wearing a raincoat. Look, I’m sorry. This is my fault and if you can’t handle it, I’ll understand.”

“What? No way!” I settled back into the seat as I shook off my stunned stupor. It takes time to get over a shock like this and let the feelings settle, but overall I felt pretty good about it. It could have had something to do with the mothering instincts that were growing inside me, and now that it had happened, I felt this was something I wanted. “I’m gonna be a…” My eyebrows creased in sudden confusion.

“Yeah, that’s something we’re going to have to sort out. Decision time for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about this whole Schrödinger’s cat thing. In the thought experiment, and the real ones you talked about before yours, the probability wave function collapsed as soon as the box was opened and the subject observed. In your case, you’ve maintained a dual state for over six months and show no signs of becoming one thing or the other. I’m beginning to think that maybe you’re the source of the continued uncertainty.”

“What do you mean?” Repetitive, I know, but I’m not at my best when I’m confused.

“You talked about being your own observer and I think you’re right. I think you’re the main thing that’s holding this in balance. You like being a girl don’t you?”

“More than you know, and you know a lot.”

She ignored me. “But at the same time, I think there’s a part of you that feels it’s wrong. That you should stay as a guy.”

My eyes gave it away; she’d struck gold with that one.

“I believe that the reason why you’re staying in this state of flux is because you can’t make up your own mind which side you want to be on. You kind of sit in the middle and maintain the balance, and it takes someone like me to push you one way or the other. I can’t push you far enough to make the change permanent because you keep pulling things back to middle ground.”

“So, what you mean is…” Variations on a theme. Still not that scintillating as conversation contributions go.

“I’m not really sure, but I think you need to make your mind up, decide once and for all whether you want to be a man or a woman. You have a unique opportunity here to become the person you really want to be, but you have to make the choice. You’re the primary observer here, and if you weren’t so busy sitting on the fence, I wouldn’t be able to do this.”

She focused her mind and within the space of a few seconds I changed to my old male form and back to the more girly me we both seemed to prefer. It may have been the rapid changes but, whatever it was, my brain kicked into gear.

“It’s not quite that simple. I mean however much I look like a girl right now, I’m not one. However much it looks like the change might go all the way, I’m not sure yet if I’m going to end up as completely female, or if I’ll get stuck part way. I mean, just because I have XX chromosomes in this form doesn’t mean that my body’s going to grow all the bits a girl has. I’m not sure I want to be a sorta-kinda-nearly girl, even if I can look this good. I mean what if I want to have a baby some day?”

“Well in case you haven’t figured it out yet, you are. This is your baby that’s growing in me.”

“No, I know that. I mean what if I want to give birth?”

“If you decide to stay as a man that’s unlikely ever to happen.”

“No! I’m not explaining this well. When I’m a man, I don’t feel so strongly about children. I mean there’s this sense that I’d like to be a father someday, but it’s kind of dormant; background noise sort of thing. I guess if I were to stay as a man, I’d get more excited about your pregnancy as it progressed, but in this form I already feel broody just thinking about it. What if I choose to be this way and end up with all the emotions that make me want to carry a child inside me, but my body stops changing and makes it impossible for me to do so? I could avoid that by staying a male.”

“True, but isn’t that just an excuse? The reason you’re hanging on to this idea of staying a man is more obligation and worry than genuine desire. You’re worried about what your Mum and Dad would say if you turned up in skirt with the twins bulging out of the top of your, er, well… er… top.”

“Aren’t obligations a good enough reason to make a decision? We all have to make sacrifices at some stage in our lives, we even think of sacrifice as being a noble thing. Why shouldn’t I sacrifice this girly side of me for the sake of the happiness of people I care about?”

“And why shouldn’t they sacrifice their prejudices for the sake of what makes you happy? Yeah sure, someone’s going to have to make some adjustments, but are you sure it has to be you? Part of your unique situation is that if you choose to be a girl, or as girly as this thing is going to make you, you’re going to look pretty stunning. I mean you’re not going to be the bloke in a dress who’s going to be an outrage to those who don’t understand and an embarrassment to those who are trying to support you. Sorry that’s harsh, but you know that’s the way this shithole of a world would see you if you tried to be a girl like this.”

She focused again and I was Mr Me in a dress.

“If you could be like this,” focus, flip, the girl was back, “then who in your family couldn’t adjust to the idea that you really were a girl? Sacrifice for a noble cause is laudable, but sacrifice for no gain is the height of idiocy.

“Look, love, the choice has to be yours. You don’t have to make it now, even; you can take as long as you like over it. The thing is, the longer you wait, the less likely you will be to decide one way or the other, which means that you’ll end up living your whole life flipping back and forth, and I’m not sure that’s going to be easy. On either of us, but most of all on you.

“We have a baby to think about now. It won’t be fair imposing this life on to him or her. If there’s a way we can have a normal life, shouldn’t we take it?”

“Normal? That means you’d want me to be a husband…”

“Not necessarily. I swing both ways, remember? It was part of what you were looking for in your ad, and I’m as attracted to you as you are, as I am to you as you were the other night. If I already have a baby from that part of you, I’d be happy to spend the rest of our lives with this part, assuming that’s what you want.”

“Which brings me back to what if I want to have, I mean actually have, a baby?”

“Well, let’s see how your body develops shall we? I mean if we keep you in this form as much as possible, it should speed up any changes that are going to take place. We could always store some of your sperm one time when you’re a guy, but I’m not sure that it would be such a good idea to use it on yourself. I mean, talk about the ultimate in incest – talk about go fuck yourself. Plus if it worked, you’d most likely end up with an exact clone.”

“Yeah, okay. Enough with the gross imagery.”

“Sorry. Okay, let’s leave it for now and see what happens. If things work out as we hope and you do get to be a real girl, then I promise you can carry our second child, and we’ll get donor sperm from someone suitable. We have another eight months before decisions really have to be made.”

It was an uncomfortable ending to a conversation, in part because of the topics covered, in part because there were major issues left unresolved. There was something else though. I couldn’t help thinking there was still something she wasn’t telling me. Something significant.

I pulled the Traveller out into traffic again, and we headed for our next camp site in silence, each of us brooding over our separate worries.

-oOo-

Three months is a long enough for a medium sized elephant to grow into a full sized bull mastodon, and in a VW Traveller, the space fills quickly. The uncomfortable silences were growing in length and frequency, and Sandy and I found ourselves arguing about silly little things. I think we both realised that the big issues were our own personal global thermonuclear war, so out of a sense of sense of self preservation, we stuck to cold war tactics and sniped at each other about squeezing the toothpaste in the middle of the tube or leaving used underwear lying about.

Sandy was beginning to show now and, much to our relief, had made it past the morning sickness stage. Morning sickness? Which crap-head suggested that it was restricted to the morning? Sandy’s regurgitations seemed to happen throughout the day and night, which made trips between camp sites slow and filled with abrupt interruptions. It meant that we had to stay on smaller roads where it was legal to stop in a hurry so she could add some colour to the countryside. It meant that nights spent in the confines of a small tent were often enhanced with interesting aromas. No we were pretty glad when the morning sickness was over.

I stayed in girl form pretty much all the time, except for bedtimes when we both had a desire to make use of a certain part of my male anatomy. Sex was great for both of us, and all the more so when I shifted back to girly me afterwards so that we could enjoy a post-coital cuddle without fear of me nodding off. These were the rare times of détente when conversation could stray into more serious topics without fear of letting slip the dogs. Or maybe we were just allowing ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security.

“Will you miss my little soldier? You know, if I decide to be a girl full time?”

“There are ways to work around that you know? Plus, if it means you get to carry our next child, I’m all up for rearranging your plumbing.”

We both felt happier talking about it because my body was continuing to change. A week previously I had noted a light spotting of blood in my knickers, and we were now waiting eagerly to see what the next time round would bring. Three weeks more to discover just how bizarre quantum physics could really be.

“Would it be so hard if I stayed as I was? I mean just so I could escape being a woman for a week out of every month.”

And there was the mastodon, hairy, sweaty, smelly, looming, filling our already crowded little tent to bursting.

“It doesn’t work that way and you know it.”

I did know it. Whenever I changed form, the other me was suspended until I changed back. If I switched to guy mode to avoid having a period, it would simply be waiting for me when I changed back.

That wasn’t the issue though. I’d meant it as a joke and the chilling awkwardness in the atmosphere was a considerable overreaction.

“Sandy,” my tone was soft, but serious. “Why won’t you tell me what’s bothering you?”

She shuffled round in our joint sleeping bag to face me. There was just enough diffused moonlight to see her tears.

“Because I’m scared. You’re right, there is something I haven’t told you. It’s just that I think you’ll leave me when you find out what it is.”

“The way things are at the moment feels like we have a train wreck waiting for us a little way down the line anyway. I don’t see you have much to lose. Come on Sandy. This is me.”

“Okay.”

-oOo-

“You remember the morning we hit the road? The news report I showed you about two girls where one was able to change sex? You remember how you freaked out?”

I nodded. She felt the gesture more than saw it in the dark.

“It always seemed odd to me that you reacted to that but saw no danger in putting an advert like you did in the local newspaper.”

Ice cold tendrils snaked through my veins as I began to suspect where this was going.

“You work for the lab…”

“When I first met you, you were just an assignment. They wanted me to push you to the limit – see how fast the change took place, how many changes you could manage in a given time, how the changes affected you, how long you could hold one form before flipping to the other, how stable your altered state was compared to your original. That sort of thing.”

“And all the time we’ve been on the run…”

“I’ve been reporting back on you, yes. Well not quite. I broke contact with them three months ago.”

“Because of the baby.”

“Because of the baby. I realised they would make our baby part of the experiment as well, and for the first time it really sunk in what that meant, what you were afraid of, what I’d actually been doing to you all that time.”

“So all this time I’ve been nothing more…”

“No! Well, maybe at first, a bit, but can’t you see I’ve fallen in love with you? If it were just me and the baby I could have cut and run three months ago. I care about you, and I-I’m ashamed of what I did to you.”

Silence settled over us like thick fog. I could feel Sandy quivering beside me, too afraid to say more, too afraid of what I might do. Suddenly the tent was too crowded. Elephant be damned, I just had to get away from her, to clear my head, to think. I jammed my feet into a pair of walking boots and grabbed a coat. As usual my choice of bedtime attire was appropriate for neither the cold night air nor any people I might meet outside.

It was a bright, clear night; stars in retreat before the onslaught of a gibbous moon, which painted the world in ghostly highlights and deep shadows. I moved rapidly between the tents and caravans, heading for the cover of the trees. My feet slipped loosely in my unlaced boots, and the cold air played around my bare legs eliciting a few muttered curses. The few people who were still up and about turned to look at me as I stomped by.

The sense of betrayal was too much. I had been falling in love with Sandy as much as she claimed she loved me, and to find out that all this time it had been nothing more than a lie. How could I trust anything she said? It felt like my heart was ripping apart inside my chest, and an involuntary sob escaped my lips as the pain became too hard to bear.

I flipped, and in place of the sadness was a rapidly growing rage. How dare she do such a thing to me? How dare she pretend to be my friend, my lover, then turn around, bold as you like, and tell me that all along she’d been working for the people who planned to make my life hell? A visceral growl welled up from deep inside me, building towards a roar.

I flipped back and the roar turned into a cry of anguish as I fell to my knees. Sharps stones cut into my unprotected skin, but they were nothing compared to the tearing feeling inside. Gentle hands settled on my back, the concerned faces of strangers appeared in my field of view. The anguish was too overwhelming and I flipped again.

Those same concerned hands recoiled from the raging beast that emerged. Many ran for the sanctuary of tents or vehicles. Cell phones appeared in hands and a dozen calls were made. With various levels of coherence, people reported to the authorities on my unusual appearance as I flipped back and forth between heartache and hatred.

A hand grabbed me by the arm and dragged me forcibly towards the parked cars. As though from a distance, I heard Sandy’s desperate pleading as she bundled me into the back of van. Felicity mewed at me from within her cage. She didn’t have a lot of freedom these days as we were always worried she’d run off. Strange that such a minor concern could reach into the maelstrom of my mind. It gave me a little anchorage. The engine roared into life and we sped away from the camp site, deserting our tent and heaven knows what else. The headlights danced crazily in the trees as we careened down the road.

Just a few minutes on, Sandy spotted an unpaved access road and ducked onto it, dousing the lights as soon as we were out of sight behind a stand of trees. I had just flipped to a male phase and felt the anger swelling inside me. I reached for the rear hatch, not trusting myself to be close to her, but she grabbed me and held onto my flailing arm.

“Hit me then,” she screamed into my face. “Throttle me, kick me, spit at me. Do what you must but stay still, stay quiet.”

I flipped again and buried my sobbing face into her breast. Her arms around me brought comfort as my traitor body sought solace in the soft embrace of my betrayer. Finding an outlet for the turbulent emotions within me, I cried and remained as I was. I clung to her like a lifeline and she held onto me until the boiling storm inside me began to subside.

We hadn’t been there long when a stream of police cars sped past our hiding place, sirens blaring, followed moments later by a train of dark SUVs.

“We’d better get out of here,” Sandy said, disengaging herself from me and starting the engine again.

We reversed out onto the main road and headed away from the camp site. The next few junctions, we took random turns until we found a long winding road leading down out of the hills. We continued to drive for a couple more hours then pulled off the side of the road into a secluded layby. Sandy climbed over the seats into the back where we pulled out enough warm clothing to cover us and stave off the early morning chill.

With the windows cracked only slightly open, the van was a safe enough environment to give Felicity a little freedom, and Sandy let her loose. She seemed to sense my need for attention and came over to butt me on the chin until I acknowledged her. There is something amazingly therapeutic about stroking a warm, furry ball of dribble, and my state of mind returned to something approaching normal, even as my nightdress soaked up the cat’s oral leakage. Sandy kept as much of a distance as is possible in the back of a small van and stared at me warily.

“I guess it’s pretty evident how you feel about me,” she said hesitantly. “You wouldn’t be so distraught if you didn’t care about me. Now, if only there were a way to show you that I feel the same about you, assuming it’s not already too late. I’d completely understand if you wanted nothing more to do with me, but can’t you see, this is just the reason why I was too scared to tell you?”

Felicity joined me in glowering back at her. No-one glowers quite like a cat, but I was giving it a pretty good try. Sandy withered beneath our joint gaze.

“Fine. I deserve your disdain. What do we do now though? Should I grab my things and leave you? You can have the van if you want, and the bloody cat since she seems to like you so much better.”

She began to rummage through the mess of bags, looking for things she could wear, things she could take. I watched for a while, but this wasn’t the answer. You don’t leave a pregnant woman on her own by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, no matter how you feel about her. Especially not when the child is yours.

“Stop,” I said quietly, not much conviction in my voice. She heard and stopped still in the middle of stuffing a handful of underwear into a tote bag. She sat, unmoving, hardly breathing, and waited.

“Now’s not the time for hasty decisions,” I knew the words to say, but I couldn’t put any feeling into them. “We should try and sleep. Figure out what to do tomorrow.”

“Can’t we talk…?”

“I think you’ve said enough for one night. I need to think. To let these feelings subside.” I settled down where I was with an armful of dribbling feline, positioning myself so Sandy was left in no doubt that she wasn’t invited. There was space enough for her at the back if she curled up.

-oOo-

I awoke to a cool breeze and sunlight streaming in through the van’s windows. The rear hatch was open and Sandy sat at the edge, already dressed in warm, sensible clothes and hugging her knees as best she could around her growing bulge. She wouldn’t look at me, but she heard me move.

“I let Fliss out to do her business. She’s having a poke around the trees, but she knows not to go far.”

I lay still and watched her. In all the months we’d been together, I’d never known her to look so sad and dejected. Part of me wanted to let her stew, another wanted to reach out and comfort her. I let her stew.

“I wish you’d say something. Even if you yelled and screamed and called me everything under the sun, it would be better than…”

“You know, I’ve a good mind to turn into my male self. What you did, the way you betrayed me like that, it hurts so much. It would be so much easier to be the man I was and be mad at you instead of this,” I waved my hands helplessly in the air. The heartache dug its way under my defences and I could feel the tears surging upwards. I fought angrily to push them down, “this…”

“Then why don’t you?” she challenged me. “I mean you’ve got nothing to lose. You’ve already decided that what I’ve done is a deal breaker, not that I blame you, so it’s just you now. You don’t need to think about me or the baby. Why don’t you take that way out if it’s so much easier?”

There was no emotion in her voice. No anger, no pleading. Just a dead monotone which spoke with greater volume of the hopelessness she felt.

“I think it’s because you’ve made your decision. Even with the way you feel right now, this is who you want to be. The sooner you realise that – the sooner you start seeing yourself for the girl you are inside – the sooner you can resolve this craziness and get on with your life.

“I’ve been waiting for you to make the decision for yourself, hoping that you’d choose what’s best for you and stick to it, but maybe you’ve been sitting on the fence so long you have one of the palings jammed too far up your ass and you need a push. Maybe this will do it for you, I don’t know. I hope so, because you deserve a better life than this.”

She slid out the back of the van, causing it to rise and bounce gently on its shocks.

“Look after Felicity for me; she really does seem to like you better.” She smiled a rueful smile and slid a tote bag full of clothes onto her shoulder. “I really wish things could have worked out between us you know? And I wish I could convince you how much I wish I’d been honest with you sooner. The thing is, there really never was a good time for me to tell you, and if I have any regrets about the time we spent together, it’s that it couldn’t have lasted longer, and that it had to end this way.”

“What will you do?”

“Oh, I checked the map this morning while you were sleeping. There’s a small town a few miles further on. There’ll be a bus into a larger town and from there to just about anywhere. Not too hard, even for someone in my condition. I took a couple of hundred out of the pot to get me started, I hope you don’t mind.”

I shook my head and watched as she walked off down the road. Inside it felt like my heart was tearing itself into shreds, and it would have been so easy to run and hide in the man I used to be. Just flip and become him, embrace the anger and the outrage, hate her and forget her, get on with my life and put all of this behind me. In a fit of pique, I pulled off the delicate, lacy nightclothes and rummaged through the bags for a pair of jeans.

-oOo-

The road was a dark ribbon against the green, stretching into the distance before disappearing around the base of a distant hill. It was too early in the morning for other traffic and I had the tarmac to myself. It would have been peaceful if not for the unfettered roar of the Traveller’s engine. She was a vehicle built for endurance rather than speed or grace but, intrusive as the racket was, there was something comforting in the familiarity of the noise.

The fuel gauge was reading low – I’d have to stop at the next town and top up. I hated paying the hiked up prices they charged in the country, but she was a thirsty beast and I knew from painful experience not to ignore her demands. Maybe they’d have a public convenience and I could clean up a bit. That was the worst of camping all the time – you never felt completely clean.

Fliss was sulking in her carrier on the seat beside me. I knew better than to talk to her when she was in this sort of mood, but I couldn’t risk letting her out if she was going to run off like she had earlier. I didn’t feel much like talking anyway. You know that sense of contentment you have when you’ve stopped struggling with some impossible problem? Well that was me. A sort of gentle ache suffused me, like lying in the morning after a long day’s hiking, and it felt good.

I rounded a bend to find a solitary figure walking along the side of the road, arm extended, thumb held out in the age old gesture. I pulled alongside and leaned across to wind down the passenger side window.

“You look like you could do with a ride,” I called out above the engine’s very slightly quieter idle. “Climb in.”

Sandy looked up at me, and the hope in her eyes melted the last of the resentment I had been carrying.

“Felicity ran off into the woods after something small and furry; it took me ages to catch her.” I opened the door and reached down for her bag. It went over the seat into the back, along with the sulking cage full of felininity.

Sandy climbed up beside me, part hopeful, part uncertain. “I thought…”

“You were right.” I didn’t want to hear what she thought; there was a whole other conversation I wanted to have.

“What about?”

“I was so angry with you, I wanted to hate you and curse you and tear you out of my life. I wanted to be merciless and turn all those mad feelings into just one big ball of boiling rage, and it would have been so easy to do as Male Me.

“It’s so much easier to squash your feelings as a guy, you know? All I needed to do was flip and let the testosterone do its thing. A bit of anger, a bit of self-pity, quite a lot of booze. I could have got over you in a week. The thing is I didn’t want to.

“I didn’t want to be a guy, particularly not that guy. I mean don’t get me wrong, I hated the way you made me feel – all torn up and bleeding inside – but you made me feel, and I realised that was what I wanted more than anything. Even if I had to cry myself asleep for a month, I knew it would be worth it because I feel so much more alive like this.”

“You’ve made your decision then?”

I nodded, a tear escaping and trickling down my cheek.

“Then I came to my senses. I figured if I felt that bad about you leaving, then maybe you might be worth a second chance. If I hadn’t had to spend half an hour chasing Felicity, I would have been here sooner.”

Tears flooded her eyes, and my own welled up in sympathy. I reached out for her and pulled her into a tight embrace. I hoped I would never get used to the feeling of my breasts pressing against hers, it felt so good.

-oOo-

The town had a small guest house as well as fuel stop – pet friendly too. We took a room and gave Fliss her freedom, at least within the confines of our new accommodation. She chose to show her displeasure by sitting with her back to us and twitching her tail, but neither of us were interested.

Sandy and I undressed each other and climbed into bed.

“Are you sure you don’t mind? It being me, like this I mean. You don’t miss… him? Because I don’t think I could be him now, even if we both tried.”

“There’s only one of you, you know? There always has been.” She caressed one of my boobs, sending shivers down my spine. “A bit like what’s her face, Princess Fiona in Shrek. And, like Shrek, I would love you whichever form you took. Besides, there’s fun to be had this way too. Let me show you.”

And she did. In all the months we’d been together, the only sex we’d enjoyed had been of the conventional sort. This was new, different and oh so much better. If there were any lingering doubts about who and what I wanted to be, sex as a woman dispelled them once and for all. Sandy knew so many ways to send me soaring to the heights of ecstasy, and before long I knew enough to lift her up with me. We spent forever in that timeless place of bliss, only returning to reality when we were utterly spent.

-oOo-

Felicity jumped onto the bed, deciding that she would deign to forgive us if we would provide her with the company she was missing. Sandy absent mindedly scratched her behind the ears. I was too busy stroking the rounded bulge that protected our future child. I felt a kick and Sandy and I locked eyes, sharing the moment with a smile.

“Do you think it’s a boy or a girl?” I asked, returning my attention to Sandy’s belly and leaning my head against one of her breasts.

“Oh, a girl, definitely.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“The wave form has collapsed love. You don’t have any Y chromosomes to offer.”

“But… but that’s now, I was a man when we…”

“You were a quantum anomaly when we dot dot dot. The uncertainty that surrounded you then would have extended to this little thing. When you made your choice, you did so for both yourself and our daughter.”

“That doesn’t make sense. I mean if what you say is true, then by making this choice I should nullify your pregnancy, surely?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t work like that. The quantum flux relates to your DNA. Your dual state was between having XY and XX chromosomes. When you were a guy and we made love, you had sperm to act as a means of delivering your genetic material into me. After the egg was fertilised, there would still have been some ambiguity about whether you provided me with a Y chromosome or an X. If you’d given me a male one, it would have been in the same state of uncertainty that you were in. Now you’re entirely female, the collapsing of the wave form would have extended to the genetic makeup of the child growing inside me. Believe me, we’re having a baby girl.”

“It’s not going to be much of a life for her though, is it?” I kissed her belly and sat up to look at her, showing the sadness and regret I felt.

-“It doesn’t have to be that way you know?”

“What do you mean?” Bugger! I wish I could stop asking that question.

“I could get back in touch with the lab. Tell them it’s over. The waveform’s collapsed and you’re now irrevocably female. There’ll be a few tests, possibly for both of us, but when they find out you’re all girl, there’ll be nothing much left for them to do.

“In a way it’s fair. You took their money, and they should get something back for it. If we tell them everything we know, they might even be able to help you with a new identity. Especially since the alternative would be for us to tell someone in government and they might take exception to the kind of human trials these guys are doing.”

-oOo-

“So there you are, full disclosure. The deal was we tell you everything we know and submit ourselves to your tests, you agree to limit your testing on Sandy so as not to put the life of the baby in danger, and when we’re done you give me a new identity and leave us alone.”

The door behind me opens and Sandy comes in holding a ball of cotton wool in the crook of her elbow. A lab tech follows her in, carrying the digital equivalent of a clipboard. He nods his head towards the man opposite me.

“So we’re done? We can go, and you’ll leave us alone?”

The man with the mirror shades slides a manila envelope across the table and I pick it up, taking it as our cue to leave. Armed guards lead us out of the facility and we climb into the rusty, trusty VW. I start the engine and head for the entrance where another armed guard lifts the barrier to let us escape.

“Do you really think they’ll leave us alone now?” I ask.

“No reason why not. We showed them there’s nothing different about us.”

Sandy opens the envelope and check through all my new documents. Birth certificate, social security number, driver’s license, equivalent qualifications to the ones I had before. She speaks my new name out loud, savouring it, smiling, then gasps as, deep within her womb, our as yet unobserved child wriggles about seeking a more comfortable position.

-Fin-