The Last of Magic

the_last_of_magic

Copyright © 2010 Maeryn Lamonte – All Rights Reserved.

“Selamünaleyküm.” I held the beaded curtain to one side and stooped as I entered the welcome shade of the shop.

“Aleykümselam,” replied the shopkeeper, grinning as he stood to greet me. I stood upright and accepted his handshake.

“You are American I think,” he said pointing a finger at me.

I nodded in agreement. “It saddens me, the enmity between our two countries. I hope this does not affect how you think of me.”

He seized my upper arm with his free hand. “Come now, you have offered peace to my household and I have offered peace back to you. Let us be men of the world and forget the differences between my nation and yours. May I offer you some coffee?”

It had taken me years to learn to like the immensely strong and stickily sweet coffee served in this part of the world, but it was an essential part of the ritual and with perseverance I now found I actually enjoyed the taste. More than that, I really appreciated the welcome I almost always received and the gentle pace of our business.

When I had set out buying and selling goods from the Middle East I had been keen to make quick purchases and move on, so had entered the shops and bazars ready to get straight down to haggling. It didn’t take long for me to realise that when I did this the only merchandise I was offered was overpriced, mass produced rubbish. Fortunately I had good enough sense to stop and reflect on what I was doing wrong. For a few days I sat to one side and observed how the locals went about things.

I still remember the first time I entered a shop and gave the traditional Arab greeting. I had tried to deal with the same man a few days earlier, and he was so surprised he almost forgot to give the customary response. I apologised for being rude on my previous visit, and he was so gratified by the effort I was making that I walked away with some of the best bargains of my career. I hadn’t looked back from that moment, and had grown to love the customs of this part of the world.

“You honour me greatly, it would be most appreciated,” I replied to my host and allowed him to lead me through to a back room where he clapped his hands. A young woman wearing burqa with light veil in front of her face stepped into the room and there was a short exchange in Arabic. The woman withdrew.

I still had some difficulty dealing with the way women were treated here, but I held no illusions about my ability to change things for them and so in the interest of maintaining good relations, I kept my peace.

“Sit, sit please. You are my guest.”

I did as I was bidden and smiled as I looked around the room at the finely woven rugs hanging from the walls.

“You have a fine home,” I remarked admiring the workmanship on the nearest hanging.

“You are kind. It is modest enough but I am pleased to live here.”

The young woman reappeared with a tray. Setting it down on the low table between us, she proceeded to pour two small cups of thick dark liquid from a copper kanaka. The skin on her hands was clear and she had young eyes. I nodded my thanks as she placed a cup in front of me and made a point of not looking as she withdrew taking the tray with her.

“Your daughter?” I asked as casually as I could. I didn’t want to give offence by seeming interested.

He smiled magnanimously. “Yes and I have three more like her, and two sons. Allah has been good to me.”

“He has indeed,” I replied lift my cup and taking a careful sip through my teeth to strain out any of the grounds that had not yet settled slowly to the bottom.

“And you my friend? Have you been so fortunate?”

“Sadly no,” I replied. “I travel a great deal and have never met a woman I cared for enough to settle down.”

He looked at me shrewdly through half lidded eyes. “Perhaps you like boys?” He softened the question with a wry half smile.

I was shocked and it must have showed on my face as much as in my voice. “No!” I exclaimed, then made an effort to collect myself before continuing.

“No, I have never felt that I would be happy in a relationship between two men.”

He continued to look at me. “And yet I sense there is still something…”

My heart was suddenly hammering away in my chest. How could he know? I mean I’m six foot one with broad shoulders and a very square face under a generous shock of greying hair. At age fifty I have more or less accepted that I will never be able to live the life I want and have more or less embraced the one I’ve been given. I wasn’t giving anything away, I was sure of it, so how did this guy know?

The panic attack passed and I realised that in the big scheme of things this really didn’t matter. My business trips were always to different locations as I was always on the lookout for something different. The chances were that after today I would never see this man again, so apart from the possible loss of sales which I could make up in the next town, what did it really matter if he knew? I raised my eyes and looked at him tilting my head in a what-can-you-do shrug.

“You are a very surprising man Mr American. You show courtesy to my house and honour me by accepting my hospitality, something I must say I have never experienced from one of your countrymen, and now you have the courage to acknowledge a thing that would shame most men.

“You would have been well within your rights to show great anger for my words because I have called your honour into question without cause, but you have, as I suspected, great wisdom and a gentleness of spirit and that deserves honour and respect.

“We will do business soon enough, and you shall have the best of my wares for a fair price, but first I think there is a way we can help one another. It is for this that I took the risk of asking as I did. If you will hear me out, I think you will find that I have something you would consider to be of great value.”

I waved a hand indicating that he should go on. He nodded his head and clapped his hands again, giving new instruction to his daughter as she appeared.

“This story will be long in the telling and I would have it told with all due courtesy.”

A few moments later two more young women entered with bowls and what looked like ornate kettles. One of them went to my host, the other knelt next to me and offered the kettle to me.

I looked over at my host to see that he was washing his hands in a stream of water from the kettle, so I put my hands forward and did the same. The water was hot and scented with oils. When I was done I again followed my host’s example and held my hands up for the air to dry.

As the two girls withdrew, the curtain opened again and the first of the daughter returned with a large tray piled with food. Small pieces of fish, kofte, pastries, dates; the selection was rich and varied. Unsure of the protocol I waited for my host until he waved for me to start, suggesting the kofte might be to my taste.

They looked like hamburger without the bun and on first taste proved to be quite spicy. My eyes widened and I made highly appreciative movements until I had cleared my mouth and could say how delicious they were. He gave an it-is-nothing host smile and started picking at the food himself.

“Now,” he said, “let me tell you my story…”

-oOo-

“A great many years ago in a region near to here, to the North, there lived a great chieftain. He was a renowned warlord and feared by many of the people who lived near him. He was fierce and determined to create a kingdom for himself in the area around his village and so started raiding the settlements close to him, taking prisoners and looking to increase the size of his army with the men from the villages he conquered.

“To his dismay he found that simply defeating a war party was not enough to earn their respect and loyalty. Many of the people he subdued in his early raids refused to join him and he was forced to kill many of his prisoners before those that remained agreed to follow him.

“He felt that if he could thoroughly humiliate the chieftains he overthrew, then the loyalty of their men might be more easily swayed. He called together all the mages of the region and spoke to them.

“’Find a way for me to utterly humiliate the leaders of the men I defeat so that they might learn to be loyal to me,’ he told them. ‘If you do this thing, I will grant you anything you ask of me that is within my power to give, up to half of my kingdom.’

“The mages set about this task and many schemes were presented to the great chieftain who saw insufficient merit in every one. Every one that is until a young and unknown conjurer came to him from the desert.

“’Great chieftain,’ he cried, ‘It has reached my ears that you seek a way to humiliate the leaders you defeat. What if you were able to turn them into women and then take from them the flower of their virginity? Would this be enough for your purpose?’

“’It would,’ replied the chieftain, ‘but how would you achieve such a thing? Of all the mages here, both great and small, I have not found a single one who could do the very least piece of magic. They say that there is no magic left in the world.’

“’It is no so great chieftain,’ the conjurer said. ‘It is true that the great djinn who wrought such destruction in the past have all been captured or destroyed and those confined to magical prisons either kept safe or lost to the world, but there are lesser spirits in the desert and I have worked all my life to capture these and turn them to my will.’”

My host must have noticed a twitch in the corner of my mouth because he paused in his narration. I mean I enjoy a fairy tale as much as the next person, but with all the scientific discoveries of the modern world, I refuse to believe that there can be such a thing in real life as magic and djinn.

“Oh you may smile now Mr American, and I will not bring blame on you for not believing. I myself was a sceptic until very recently, but before I am done I will show you proof of the magic this man spoke of and you too will believe.”

I bowed my head intent on hearing the man out. I had no intention of believing his tale, but the food was good and the story well told, and he had promised me favourable sales.

“The chieftain spoke to the young mage,” my host continued. “He said, ‘if you can truly accomplish this thing then I will reward you even as I have promised.’

“The conjurer spoke boldly.

“’My lord it will be as you have asked. In six days and six nights I will return here with an artefact to give you the power I have promised. When you use it you will know I have spoken the truth and you will pay me my reward even as you have promised.’

“The conjurer returned to the desert and wove with the power of his magic, a garment to grace the most beautiful woman of any harem. A dress made from seven layers of the finest fabric, a material so thin you could see through it as though it were water, but the seven layers combined would leave nothing more than the most tantalising hint of the beauty that lay beneath.

“Into this garment he enticed a lesser djinn of the desert, a spirit who sought to feed on the essence of men. With incantations and rituals now lost and forgotten to us, he bound the elemental and tamed it, bending its power to his own will, and on the sixth night following the sixth day since he had left the chieftain, he return with the dress in his arms.

“’Great chieftain,’ he called, ‘I have made the artefact you requested.’ And with a flourish he bowed low to the floor and presented the shimmering gown.

“’What is this you bring me?’ replied the chieftain. ‘You promise me a magical artefact and you bring me clothing?’

“’My lord, this is no ordinary clothing. Trapped within the weave of this garment is a creature that will bring your enemies low. Unless you are a woman, to wear this garment is to be transformed.’

“’Then demonstrate it for me young mage before I lose patience and have you flogged.’

“’As my lord commands.’ And with that the mage took off his own robe and pulled the magical dress over his head.

“The chieftain and his warriors laughed at this site, for what can be more amusing than to see a man dressed in such a garment. But the laughter died in their throats as the head that appeared above the dress was that of a woman and one of great beauty with fine features and rich dark hair that reached to her waist. The arms and hands the extended from the sleeves were slender and smooth, a woman’s hands and not the rough hands of a man who has live his life in the harsh desert.

“’You see my chieftain,’ the mage spoke and his voice was liquid gold. ‘For a man to wear this garment is to be transformed, though not entirely. The dress acts as a doorway and as much as you pass through the fabric so you are changed.

“’I place this garment over my head and it covers me completely now. You look through the material and you see the shape of a woman’s body, but the instant I raise the hem of the garment, it is as though I step back through the door and I am returned to my manhood.’

“With this the mage lifted the garment to show well-muscled and hairy legs leading to that which showed him to be a man without any shadow of a doubt.

“’This is impressive,’ the chieftain said, ‘but tell me mage, how does this achieve my end?’

“’An astute question my lord, and the answer lies in that there are two ways in which you can put on a dress.’ The mage pulled the thin fabric back over his head transforming himself back into his natural though naked form.

“’It is most common, I believe, for a woman to place a dress over her head as I have done when she clothes herself, but just as easily one could step into it from above and pull it up about oneself.’ The mage demonstrated pushing his arms out through the sleeves as before.

“’ Now everything that has passed through the garment is transformed.’ He, or perhaps she, held up the same slender hands. ‘I am now a woman in every part except my head which has not passed through the garment.’

“The mage lifted the hem of the dress again, only this time it revealed a pair of milky smooth legs, slim and perfectly formed leading up to a body that was most definitely feminine in every way.”

I must have looked confused because my host broke of his story telling again.

“Don’t you see? Only that part of the man which passed through the garment was transformed. The first time he entered at the bottom of the garment and his head came through the neckline. This gave him the face and head of a beautiful woman, but to lift the bottom of the dress was the same as him going return the way he came so he transformed back into a man. When he stepped into the dress from above, everything but his head passed through the material so his body was transformed into a woman’s and remained so even when he raised the bottom of the dress.”

“It seems very farfetched,” I replied shaking my head. “And what would happen if he went all the way through the garment? Entered from the top and exited through the bottom for instance?”

“That was the exact next question of the chieftain. He asked, ‘What would happen to you now mage if I were to pull this garment off over your head?’

“’My lord I would be most grateful if you refrained from such a course,’ came the mage’s reply, ‘for once a man has passed entirely through the garment, it would be as though he had passed completely through the doorway. The transformation would be complete and he would be a woman in every aspect. The dress would have no further effect on him and he would not be able to transform back.’

“’Then let us see this,’ the chieftain turned to the warriors nearest him. ‘Pull the dress off over his head and be careful not to tear the fabric.’

“The men stepped forward and did as they were told despite the protestations of the mage. Having no strength but that of a woman, he was easily overcome and with little more than a swift tug on the material he was transformed utterly into a most stunningly beautiful woman.

“She, for it would no longer be appropriate to call the mage he, fell to the ground covering her nakedness with her arms as best she could and looked up at the chieftain with horror in her eyes.

“’It is truly a great gift you have made me my dear,’ the chieftain said to her. ‘I can look into the faces, into the eyes of my enemies as I rape them and take from them every last shred of dignity they possess. I can threaten them with the transformation all here have seen overcome you today unless they swear fealty to me. This is a truly mighty gift.’

“He turned to his guards. ‘Treat her with respect and have her taken to sleeping tent. I will come to her tonight and show her how truly grateful I am.’

“The mage was led weeping from her lord’s presence while the chieftain and all his warriors laughed at the misfortune of this man.”

My host was silent for a moment, then clapped his hands. One of his daughters came in with the bowl and kettle of water and washed his hands before coming over to do the same for me.

“Is that the end of the story?” I asked.

“Not quite,” my host replied. “The chieftain was eager to try out his new artefact and ordered that a prisoner be brought to him, the chieftain of small war party he had subdued some days earlier. Neither the captured chieftain nor any of his warriors had shown signs of bowing to their conqueror and this seemed like an ideal opportunity.

“He ordered the prisoner be brought to him and stripped naked. The loose fitting dress was then pulled up over his body, the transformation taking hold of him before he realised enough of what was happening to react, and by that time his weakened female muscles meant he could be easily overcome.

“The chieftain pushed his transformed prisoner onto the ground, lifted the skirts of the magical garment and pushed his legs apart. With a fierce savagery he released his own manhood, now swollen with lust, and forced himself upon horrified half man.

“The prisoner’s disgust and horror at what was being done to him, along with his powerlessness to prevent it drove him mad then and there. He began to cry out with great animal bellows and had to be held down.

“’Take the garment off over his head. He is mad and more a danger than a use as a man. Let him be utterly transformed and then thrown to his men. Let us see how well they like their leader with soft skin and breasts.’

“The chieftain laughed savagely, driven to the brink of madness himself by his new power, and all but a very few of those in his presence felt a great unease settle over them. No man should have such a power and now this man they called leader did. It was changing him and not for the better.”

“So what happened?” I asked. “Did his men turn against him?”

“No,” my host offered me a triumphant smile. “His end was far more fitting than that. You see the magician who had made the garment was not entirely truthful about its powers. To make such transformation just once was the extent of the djinn’s power. If the garment were to be used on a second person, then the first would regain his original form.

“By the time the great chieftain was forcing himself on the transformed body of his enemy, the beautiful woman was once the mage had been bathed and prepared for a night of passion with her lord, and she was waiting with some trepidation in the chieftain’s sleeping tent. When the enemy was transformed entirely into a woman, the mage felt his original form return to him and sat back quietly in the shadows to wait his chance for revenge.

“The chieftain came to him later that evening, seeking a night’s pleasures in the arms of this unexpected new beauty. He told his guards not to disturb them no matter how much noise they heard, and entered the tent confident of his ability to subdue the girl he expected to find.

“The mage was thin but with a great strength born form living in the desert. He surprised the chieftain as he approached and held onto the man’s neck until he lost consciousness. He then searched the tent for the magic dress for he was certain the chieftain would never let such a powerful and valuable artefact out of his sight. He was right for the chieftain had kept it tucked into his robes.

“The mage took the garment and passed it over the chieftain’s head, pulling it right down past his feet transforming him utterly. He then dressed the newly formed girl in the costume that had been given to him after his bath, and put on the chieftain’s robes himself. In the dead of night, the mage took the magical dress, cut his way out of the back of the tent and stole away on the chieftain’s prize horse.

“No-one knows what happened to the chieftain, although it is told that when he seemed to disappear that night, his warriors spent no time searching for him, but released his prisoners, and divided up his wealth amongst themselves. That the chieftain ended his days as a woman is certain, whether he did so in the harem of one of his warriors or as a slave no-one knows nor really cares.”

-oOo-

“A fine tale, and well told my friend. I still find myself doubting it though; such things cannot happen in real life.”

“Ah but they did and they still do. I promised you proof and I will off it to you after one final chapter.

“You see the mage made good his escape, but he knew that the artefact he had created was too powerful to be owned by any man. Any object possessed of such power cannot be destroyed, and he knew that of all the men who had seen the garment used and knew its power, there would most certainly be some who would seek to own it for themselves.

“He had to make sure that no-one would own it so he rode deep into the desert until he found a rocky outcrop with caves. He then released the horse for it is a sin to kill an animal of such grace and beauty, and drove it away so that he would be unable to leave. He searched hard for some days before he found a small cave, then he crawled as far into it as the restricted passage would allow him, pushing the ill-conceived dress in front of him. When he was deep into the cave, he called upon the spirits of the desert to bury him utterly and they responded by blowing up a sandstorm of such proportions that it is remembered to this day.

“The dress was all but forgotten and remained undiscovered until some weeks ago when my brother’s construction company was digging into the rock to make foundations for a hotel, a desert resort if you will. His workers discovered the remains of a long dead man lying in a narrow cave and holding in front of him a marvellous garment. A dress of seven layers made of such fine material that each layer is as transparent as water.”

“You’re saying you found the dress?”

“Oh not me, my brother. He could not believe that such a delicate garment could survive in a desert cave and still look as clean and beautiful as it did the day it was made. He took it home to show his wife and she could not explain her husband’s discovery either.

You should know that within our culture, the relationship between a man and his wife may change a great deal within the closed walls of the bedroom. My sister-in-law is a playful thing when alone with the man she married, and, thinking it would be an amusing diversion, she gathered up the fine material of the dress and put it over his head thinking to use it to lead him to their bed.

“As you can imagine, as the garment passed over his head, he transformed to have the face and features of a young and beautiful woman. In shock my sister-in-law let go of the garment and jumped away. By some chance it fell down about my brother’s body and completed the transformation. He did not fully realise what was happening and stepped towards his wife to comfort her. In doing so he stepped out of the garment and completed the transformation.”

He was silent as though contemplating whether to share one last thing with me.

“I told you I had four daughters. In truth I only have three.”

He clapped his hands and the young woman who had first served us entered the room.

“This is my brother.”

I have to admit I stared. There was no way this creature had ever been remotely male. She was perhaps five foot five inches tall with a body that looked good even under a shapeless black burqa. She unhooked her veil and looked up at me through the most exquisite almond shaped eyes.

“It is true,” she said with a voice from an erotic dream.

I shook myself and gathered my thoughts. “This is your proof? That you have a beautiful girl tell me she was once a man? Your story is well told and nearly had me, but I cannot believe this creature was once a man.” I was affronted that they should insult my intelligence in this way and it must have shown.

“Please no,” my host pleaded reaching to prevent me from walking out. “I would not ask you to believe without proof and this is not it. My sister-in-law came to me almost hysterical, leading this young girl with her. I did not believe her at first; I mean who could believe such a fantastic tale, but I could not understand why my borther’s wife would come to me with such a ridiculous notion. I asked the girl a hundred questions that only my brother would know how to answer, and she answered every one. Eventually I believed and when they showed me the dress I was too afraid even to touch it.

“I asked the old men and women in this village and those around if they knew a story of a magical dress that could turn men into women expecting nothing but their scorn, and they told it to me as I have told it to you. They do not tell the story now, except to pass it on to one of the next generation; even they find it too unusual and unbelievable a tale.

“My brother has been in this form for many weeks now and I have been unable to think what to do, how to transform him back. You know yourself how women are treated in this country and no man alive would choose to be transformed into one. I do not wish my brother to remain as he is, but I cannot wish the transformation onto any other man I know.

“And now Allah has seen fit to bring you to me today. From the very beginning I sensed in you something different and you have honoured me by all but admitting this. In your country it is different for women, they have more power, more freedom. Although I cannot understand such a thing I have read of men in your country who would choose to be women if they could, and I have sensed in you that you desired this.

“You said to me that you were not interested in boys; that you did not want to be in a relationship with two men. Those were your words yes?”

I nodded.

“It is a strange way to say such a thing; a truth that covers a lie. The truth is that you would rather be in a normal relationship between one man and one woman, but I think I am right that there is an unspoken lie as well – that you would rather be the woman?”

This was the moment; my heart was beating like a steam hammer. I forced myself to nod one more time and for an instant time stood still.

The shopkeeper stepped out of the room for a moment and returned with a box which he handed to me.

“Your proof.”

I opened the box and inside was the most exquisite diaphanous gown. It had a large open neck which, if you weren’t careful, could quite easily slip over your shoulders, and seven layers of the most delicate sheer fabric I have ever seen or touched. Each layer was more or less transparent, but combined they shimmered with pastel shades of every hue and only hinted at what lay beneath.

“It is a strange request I have for you, but I would ask you to try it on here. Place the garment over your head and satisfy yourself that the magic is real. I too would look upon the transformation because even now I find it too hard to believe that this can be true.”

“You want me to transform into a girl? Assuming that’s even possible, what would become of me in a country that is hostile Americans and would show little respect for a young woman who had no way of proving her identity and so getting back home?”

“No, do not complete the transformation. Place the dress over your head and wear it as the magician did in his first demonstration. You would see that the transformation is real, you could show me as well. Then if you wish it, the dress is yours and you can take with you back to your country. When you are there you can complete the transformation on yourself if you wish, or if not pass the dress onto another who would desires the change more than yourself. It is the only way I can release my brother from this,” he indicated the young girl standing next to him, “and not feel that I have cheated another man of his life.”

“How do you know that your brother will turn back if I do?”

“We do not, but it is part of the story so we believe. If it does not work, we have lost nothing because nothing will work.”

I nodded nervously to my host and he led me through to small bathroom. I stepped inside and closed the door. This was truly weird, getting changed out of my clothes and into a delicate dress inside a bathroom that belonged to someone I had never met before today. With one last moment’s misgivings, I searched the room for anything that might have been a hidden camera, but there was nothing.

I slipped off my clothes and stood in all my muscular, hairy nakedness looking at the hopelessly delicate, feminine garment I had to put on.

“Well we all know you’re going to look ridiculous,” I muttered to myself, “I guess we should have a look at how much.”

I gathered up the dress and slid it over my head, reaching for the armholes as I let the body of the dress fall down to my ankles.

It shouldn’t have reached them. With my six foot one frame I had been expecting it to drop to just below the knee, but I wasn’t six foot one anymore.

I looked into a mirror and saw the face of a classically beautiful young girl framed by long strawberry blonde curls. Large, bright blue eyes, so different form the muddy brown of my own, stared back at me, sensuous lips formed an ‘o’ of shocked surprise. I couldn’t have been much older than nineteen or twenty from my looks, and my height had shrunk to about five foot four or five inches.

“Hello,” I said to the face in the mirror, my voice now a soft contralto with all the musical charm of a bright spring day. I felt my body through the clothes. Breasts, small but well formed, a narrow waist and broad hips, and between my legs, nothing to indicate that I had once been a man. I started to lift the skirts and notice large feet and hairy legs. Suddenly I didn’t want to go any further.

This was for real.

I cracked the door open just enough to allow my shopkeeper host to see my face. The dress itself was too sheer and me suddenly too self-conscious for me to want to show any more. His eyes widened and he nodded his thanks, unable to speak. I closed the door and carefully pulled the dress off over my head. I was tempted to drop the dress there and then, to complete the change, but this was neither the time nor the place.

Back in my large male form, I slipped my clothes back on and put the dress back in its box. This I offered to my host as I stepped out the door.

“No the dress is yours, only please promise me you will make the transformation as soon after you return home as possible. If you do not wish to complete the change I know you will be able to find someone else who would be glad of it.”

I knew he was right.

“I don’t know what to say. This has been a most unusual experience and you have been more than generous.”

“It is no small thing for me to have found someone who is willing to accept my brother’s fate from him.” He indicated the box. “I also promised you the best of my merchandise for a fair price. Would you care to see it?”

I shrugged. After what I’d just experienced, buying rugs was far from my mind. “None of your carpets fly I suppose?”

He laughed like it was the last joke in the world; too much and with an edge of hysteria. “No. The magic was fading from the world when the events of my story were told. I am convinced that the magician in the tale was the last to know true power, and this dress the last of magic.”

I picked out a few patterns that I knew I could sell easily at home, and one small rug with such fine stitching it was hard to see the weave. His first price was lower than anything I’d been able to negotiate on any previous occasion..

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I know I’m supposed to haggle, but your price is very reasonable and after what I’ve learnt today I haven’t really the heart to argue.”

“I will forgive you this once,” he smiled. “But next time you will have to at least try a little.”

“Would you do business with a young woman?” I asked.

“In your case, I would make an exception.” He smiled and shook my hand. “I will have your purchases brought to your hotel this evening, if you will have the money ready?”

I nodded and left the shop.

-oOo-

I couldn’t help myself. That evening, I slept in the magical gown and enjoyed the sensation of lying in bed as a young woman. The sensation of having breast, of being smaller, lighter, of the delicate fabric kissing my soft skin, was exquisite; almost erotic. I dreamed and in my dream I was in the arms of a tall powerful man whose gentle touched aroused so many powerful and unusual feelings in me.

I awoke, covered in perspiration that had little or nothing to do with the heat and humidity, and headed for the bathroom, I was already sitting on the toilet with my skirts lifted up around me when I realised that I didn’t need to be sitting. From the waist down I was a my usual tall, hairy male self, complete with male genitalia..

This was getting confusing. I pulled the dress off and packed it gently away in the bottom of my carry on – there was no way I was going to entrust something this valuable to airport luggage handling. I took a cold shower which help both with the heat and my oddly aroused body, and went to get dressed.

The previous evening after I had taken delivery of the carpets I had bought, I phoned the airport to arrange shipment and to purchase a ticket home for the next day. Not the most lucrative of expeditions financially, but the dress was just too big a thing to delay. All the way home I sat with my carry-on bag in my lap. The stewardesses offered to put it in the overhead compartment, but I couldn’t bear to have it out of my hands.

I went through my usual rituals on arriving home – check the messages on my answerphone (none as usual), sift through the mail (bills, bills and more bills), make a coffee (black with three sugars, too much Arabic influence), take my suitcase upstairs and unpack everything for the laundry. Something in me was trying to anchor me in the normal humdrum things of life. Perhaps I was afraid that this had all been a dream or that the magic wouldn’t work so for from the place of its origin. In the end I told myself off for being an idiot and grabbed the dress out of the carry-on bag and headed for the loft.

I dug through an old cardboard box and pulled out some of my old clothes from my young teenage days before I had put on my final growth spurt. I had been both shorter and slimmer then and it remains a mystery as to why I kept these things after I’d grown out of them. They included a fairly non-descript and fashion free powder blue blouse and an ankle length straight denim skirt. There was no underwear so I would probably have go commando on my first outing, but there was as cheap clothes outlet a short walk from my apartment so I should be able to correct that quite quickly.

I showered and made myself as clean and presentable as I could, then taking a deep breath and closing my eyes, I pulled the magical garment over my head. When I dared to open them again, the same young strawberry blond was looking out of the mirror at me. My huge smile of relief reflected back in the glass an all but took my breath away. If I hadn’t been the girl doing the smiling, I would definitely have been interested.

I slipped the blouse and denim skirt over the sheer fabric of my magical dress and checked myself out. For the first time in my life I felt like the girl I had always wanted to be. For the first time in my life, I was about to leave the house dressed as I wanted to be and without fear of being made. I mean what was there to make anyway?

Shoes. Uh oh, problem. After some rummaging I found some flip flops but they were ridiculously large when I put them on under the dress. As soon as I pulled my feet out though, they grew ot my normal male size. How could I do this?

Lateral thinking puzzles were always a favourite of mine and following a sudden aha moment, I grabbed a piece of newspaper and headed for the bathroom. I ran a quarter inch of water into the bath and stepped into it, lifting the hems of my dress and skirt to keep them dry. Then with my man feet wet, I stepped out onto the paper, dropped my skirts and took a small step forward, then another to step off the paper. Success! There were two small wet footprints on the newspaper just in front of my larger male ones.

I dug out a pair of scissors and trimmed my flip flops to the smaller foot size. Dropped them and stepped into them. The straps were too lose on my small feet, but they stayed well enough for me to walk down to the shops.

I grabbed my wallet – that was something else I’d have to address – and headed out.

It was interesting shopping for clothes without knowing my size. I couldn’t try underwear on without turning into a man so I settled on a number of different sizes of sports bras and panties, hoping that the lycra would give me a bit of extra stretch when I put them on. Shoes I estimated by offering up the cut down flip flops to the ones on display. I bought some flip flops that were made for feet of my new size and a pair of cheap slips ons with no heels. I also bought a few more blouses and skirts, going for slightly flouncy gypsy style in light cotton. A new purse, some makeup and some cheap jewellery and I was set for my transition period. I bought a few groceries on the way home and enjoyed my first meal as a woman that evening.

Making the change was not going to be as simple as putting the dress on over my head and stepping out of it. I mean yes the transformation would be, but there were a few things I needed to do first. I’d spent most of the flight home thinking through what I needed to do and planning the steps out. I spent a lot of time that evening practicing doing my makeup. Less is more I kept telling myself and after several hours of putting it on and washing it off, I had a look that was more attractive young girl than grotesque clown.

The next day, wearing some of my new clothes over the ever present magic dress and armed with a cardigan and a thick knitted top to give me a couple of different looks, I headed for the shopping mall again, this time for the photo booth. I took a couple of dozen photos of myself with different tops on and changing my hair between each set, then I headed for an old pub in the Irish quarter of town.

I’m sure it’s not typical of the Irish to run clandestine operations in seedy places like this one, but a lot years earlier when I’d still been able to pass as a woman, I’d thought about setting myself up with some false documents for my femme alter ego and had asked around until I’d been given the names of a few people who might be able to help me. I’d chickened out back then, but I remembered the place and the names.

A pretty girl can get away with a lot of things that a man can’t. I asked a few discreet questions, flashed my knockout smile and passed a few bills across the counter here and there. Eventually I found myself talking to an old unshaven gent nursing the pint of Guinness I’d bought him. He wasn’t at all sure that a pretty young thing such as myself ought to be hanging around in a bar like this, but when I told him what I needed he was happy enough to take my money. Two weeks he had told me at first, then following a disappointed pout from me he changed it to ten days.

The following day I was back to the male me; shaving cream and razor instead of foundation and eyeliner. It already seemed more natural to be doing girl things, and I felt like wearing a suit and tie was me dressed up pretending to be something I wasn’t.

The appointment with my lawyer didn’t take long. A new will is fairly standard and easy to set up. There hadn’t been anyone for me to leave my things to before, but now there was my other self. In the case of death or disappearance for longer than three months… The draft would be ready in a few days at which point I would provide full details of the beneficiary, name social security number etc.

The next few days I established my new identity by being seen around the neighbourhood and walking in and out of my apartment in my female guise. None of the neighbours had spoken to me as a man, now I was getting nods and smiles and a few brief conversations.

Yes I was his girlfriend. No I lived quite a distance away. No I worked for him, that was how we’d met. No I didn’t usually do this sort of thing, but I was worried about him. Some news he’d had recently that had him worried and distracted lately so I’d taken some time off to some and stay with him. I always managed to avoid giving them my name since I didn’t know it yet.

On a few days I went out as my normal male self and headed into the shop. I made a few sales, but managed to give the impression throughout that I was preoccupied, distracted. One or two of the neighbours even stopped me to ask if I was alright and I just sort of shrugged them off.

The first phone call came from my lawyer; the will was ready for me to read and sign. I apologised, other commitments. I put it off for a couple of days. The second one a few days later was from a pay phone in the Irish sector and a couple of hours later my female self was sitting in a quiet booth across from the old Irishman with his Guinness. A manila envelope was passed across the table to me and I tipped the contents into my hand.

Driving license, passport, social security number, birth certificate, education certificates. Apart from the name and a few other details, they were identical to the documents I had at home for my male self. I was 21 years old with a slightly better college grade in similar subjects. The documents had made quite a dent in my savings, but they were worth it by the looks. I passed a thicker envelope back to him and he flipped through the bills to make sure they were all there and all hundreds. Eventually he nodded to me and I stood up and left.

The next day, my male self was down at the solicitor’s adding details of the beneficiary to my will and signing in front of witnesses. We shook hands and I headed home.

Over the next few days I went out and about as both man and girl. As a man I became more morose and withdrawn, as a girl I became more distracted and worried. Away from home my girl-self opened an account in her name and made a few cash deposits. My man-self withdrew another large sum from his savings account and finally I was ready.

This had taken longer than I’d wanted, but now I could make a clean break. My final act as a man was to write a short note. “I’m sorry, I can’t go on.” A shameful admission of cross dressing, a suggestion of blackmail, unable to keep going, to live with the disgrace. I then took a bag with a change of clothes and the special dress and left the apartment.

There was a nearby bridge over a fast moving river. I walked out over it and threw my hat and right shoe into the turbulent water. On the other side of the bridge was a small wooded area, the foliage thick enough to hide a person. No-one was watching as I stepped into the thicket and undressed.

I slipped the dress over my head and took a look at my face in the compact mirror. This was the point of no return; a big decision, but I knew it was what I wanted. I slipped the dress off my shoulders and allowed it to fall to my feet. I stepped out of the circle the dress had formed on the ground and might have imagined a slight tingling as I committed myself to life as a girl.

I dug into the bag for the outfit I’d brought with me. The magical dress had always restricted me to wearing long skirts as my body needed to be fully covered for the transformation to seem complete. Today I’d promised myself a treat and I eagerly pulled out clothes I’d not been able to wear before.

The bra and panties were powder blue and lacey. It took me a while to adjust the bra straps to fit properly, I finally had everything set up right. Then came a pair of sheer white hose. I relished the delicious feel of the material against my legs, remembering how it had felt before I’d grown too much and dressing had become more ridiculous and frustrating than sensual and enjoyable. The top was white with puffed sleeves and embroidered flowers. It was cut short underneath my small bust and exposed my midriff. The skirt was a denim and lace and came down to mid-thigh. The shoes were patent leather pumps with a one and half inch heel, which was about as much as I felt I could handle without risking a trip to the ER.

I used the compact mirror to look myself over as best I could. Maybe a little bit trashy, but it left me with a warm moist feeling between my legs. I added a bracelet, a necklace and some clip on earrings and made a mental note to visit the mall soon and get them pierced. A few minutes more with the compact add a little foundation, blusher and lipstick and I was ready to face the world.

I gathered up my old clothes, and the all-important dress, and made my furtive way out of the stand of trees. I realised too late that I was a lot more likely to be noticed like this, but luck was on my side and I made it to the bus-stop without being noticed.

As I headed into town for the day, I pulled out me cell phone a dialled an international number. The phone was answered on the third ring and from the sound of whooping and crying and singing at the other end, I suspected that the news was good.

“I take it your brother is your brother again.”

“Is that you my friend?” came the laughing response. “I never heard your voice when you were changed.”

“It’s me. I’m sorry this has taken so long, but I needed to prepare.”

“We had nearly given up hope, but I knew you would not forget us. I hope you are happy my friend, you deserve to be for your kindness.”

“I’m happy and I’m grateful. As much as your brother has wanted to change back, so I have wanted this.”

“Will I see you again?” It was an odd question from a man I had met only once; a man who’s outlook on life was so different from my own.

“I don’t know. My business has kept me well fed for all these years, but I think it will be harder to do now as a woman. It may be time to try something different.”

“There is truth in your words. I wish you well my friend and thank-you.”

I smiled as I hung up. It was good to know that things had resolve themselves over there, the man did not deserve to be changed against his will. Who knows, perhaps the experience would make him and his brother a little more sensitive towards their wives and daughters.

That evening when I returned to the apartment, I put on a show over the discovery of the note. Crying seemed to come so much easier now that I was a girl, and in a way it seemed right to mourn the death of my old self. I called the police who promised to do everything they could. The dragged the river and searched downstream. Eventually they found the hat, but nothing else.

The coroner declared it as a suicide, but because no body was recovered, it was three months before the will was read and all my possessions came back to me. I spent that time in a small one bedroom studio apartment living frugally off the money in my bank and cash from the second large withdrawal I’d made as my male-self. The lease on the shop had been paid up for six months so everything was as I’d left it when it came back to me.

I managed to sell off most of the stock for a good price, and even met a really cute guy along the way. He took most of the rugs and carpets off my hands for a better than reasonable price. I hope he doesn’t lose his job over his generosity because I really do like him. He’s asked me to meet him for lunch today and I’m going all gooey just thinking about it. Yes it turns out I do prefer boy girl relationships, and yes I do like being the girl.

The dress is locked up in a safety deposit box in bank with the highest reputation for discretion and safety. There are instructions not to open the box until after I am dead, and further instruction with the dress to explain exactly what it does. I imagine I’ll meet other people in my life who long for the change that has come so unexpectedly to me, and I have every intention of leaving it to one of them, as long as they don’t use until after I’m gone.

Right now I don’t have any plans for the rest of my life. There are a lot of new possibilities opening up that just weren’t there before and I intend to take my time savouring this new life before I set a direction. Right now I’m on my way to the restaurant, walking as briskly as I dare in two inch heels. I have just endured my first sugar wax and somehow the swirl of my skirt against my legs is all the more sensuous today.

A wolf whistle carries across to me from a nearby building site and I smile. It feels great to look this good and be noticed.

-Fin-