Unreality

Copyright © 2014 Maeryn Lamonte – All Rights Reserved.

Human minds leak.

It’s a bit like radioactivity. Every element, every isotope has its degree of stability, but pretty much everything has its half-life, its probability of decaying into something else, and when it does, the radiation given off affects other atoms lying about, nudging them towards their own inevitable self-destruction.

Highly radioactive substances have more of a tendency to affect one another. Too much in one place and you have critical mass; each radioactive decay produces enough by products to produce at least one other radioactive decay, and so the process fuels itself. Just a little more, and the reaction escalates. One decay causes three more, which cause nine, then twenty seven, then eighty one, two hundred and forty three, seven hundred and twenty nine. Seven more iterations and you’re in the millions; six more after that and you’re in the billions.

That’s how you melt cities.

Criticality of thought.

Thoughts are electrical impulses – the movement of charged particles. Charged particles generate electrical fields. When they move, they generate magnetic ones. Electromagnetic fields interact. They influence one another, change one another.

The electrical impulses in a human brain are so small though. How can they create a field worth mentioning? Surely the effect is too minute to have any influence…

Maybe so, when there aren’t so many. Two hundred years ago, for the first time in the existence of the human race, our global population passed one billion. A hundred and twenty years later it had doubled. Fifty years later it had doubled again. Right now we’re approaching another double.

So many human brains. So many complex patterns being broadcast ever so gently, overlapping, interfering, synergising.

It started in the cities. I mean it would, wouldn’t it? So many minds gathered in such a small place. Thoughts from a multi-million people influencing one another, amplifying one another, eating away at the fabric of reality, eroding it, until thought began to influence the nature of the universe itself.

Imagine something – your deepest desire, your greatest fear – and somehow that thought bounces around among a million minds, finds resonance, finds form. You can’t do it consciously. If you focus on a thought, it becomes unbablanced in the whole scheme of things, but our hopes and dreams, our fears and nightmares, there’s a commonality to them that has grown from the subtle interaction of our brains over more years than we can imagine. With enough human beings living together, the resonance grows out of proportion, runs away with itself. Exponential increase until thought is powerful enough to create.

There are dragons in the world now, and demons. Monsters and magic. Night terrors stalk the night, eviscerating whoever they meet. Mortal weapons cannot touch them, not even the advanced weapons of our modern world. The only thing that has any effect at all is magic – directed will.

It isn’t just wishful thinking though. Desire something enough and it pops into existence sort of thing. The reason that doesn’t work, so the experts think, is that direct, deliberate thought goes against the flow. You have to feel the pattern of thought that’s flowing around you. You have to go with it, use its strength, nudge it slightly, give it ideas, take the unbridled, unformed essence of change and give it shape.

Some people are better at it than others. They’re the charismatic types – the ones who seem to know instinctively what the crowd thinks it wants, then nudge it slightly, twist it, shape it until it becomes what the individual wants.

Hitler had it. Took the desires for change and improvement of an entire nation and twisted them into the hatred and near destruction of another one.

Fortunately we don’t have any Hitlers these days. What they could achieve in the modern age doesn’t bear thinking about.

No really, it doesn’t. Not in an age when thought can become reality.

Lesser minds can still do enough damage though. The naturally popular kids at school, turned arrogant and vain by the attention of so many. Now they don’t have to be muscle bound, sporty types in order to make someone’s life a misery. All they need is to be able to twist the will of the mass mind just so.

And if there are going to be bullies, there have to be victims, don’t there? Individuals who don’t quite fit for one reason or another. Kids who don’t belong, who live sideways in the world.

Kids like me.

A decade or so ago. The worst I might have expected from going to school would have be the odd wedgy and to have my head shoved in a toilet from time to time. Regardless of bullying policies in schools, things like that still continued unchecked because somehow the majority of the school was okay with nasty things happening to kids who are different. It’s sort of an animal instinct – protecting the pack from outsiders sort of thing. No-one helps, everyone takes some pleasure in the misfortunes visited on the target individual, and no-one talks. Not even the victim. Unwritten rule.

These days though, the worst that can happen is usually quite a lot worse.

Not too much so, though. The mass mind has always had its limits for aggressive behaviour. Animal packs would nip at outsiders and chase them off, but they’d draw the line at killing outright. So it is these days. Turning someone into a worm or a slug or a cockroach is more horrific than funny, so it doesn’t happen, but give a lad a pair of tits, there’s humour in that.

That’s another thing about mass mind humour. It doesn’t change much. Find a formula that works and stick with it. My first day at Trenton Comprehensive and I became the new victim of choice for the local popular kid. Worse than that, he got it into his head that the most effective way to humiliate me was to girlify me.

Yeah, I now it’s not a word, but the concept is there. He didn’t turn me into a girl. That wouldn’t have been any fun. If he’d done that, I’d have been just like all the other girls and there wouldn’t have been anything to laugh at. I’d simply have joined them, made friends and where’s the misery in that?

No. There seems to be a fixation in the minds of the overtly male that women are a lesser species. It’s alright for girls to be girly, because they can’t help it, and there’s something kind of nice about having girls bring a bit of girliness into boys’ lives – in moderation, but for a guy to be seen to be girly is supposed to be the ultimate worst thing ever.

So guess who got to wear a dress his first day at school.

And every day after that.

And not just the dull grey pinafore dress with white blouse that was school uniform for pretty much every girl in the school. No, mine was the pinkest and frilliest and flounciest thing you might ever have seen.

I’d turn up in the same grey trousers and shirt every other boy was wearing, but before I made it through the main doors, there I’d be in heels, pop socks or tights, and something out of some fantasy boudoir somewhere.

For the first week, the skirts got shorter every day until they were too short to hide the frilly knickers I was being made to wear underneath.

Then there were variations in styles. Period costumes, complete with hairstyles and make up whenever we changed topics in history, cheerleader outfits during PE, complete with pompoms that I couldn’t let go of during the entire games session.

Then came the experiments with my body. First hair that would suddenly grow so long I couldn’t help sitting on it. Then other parts of my anatomy started to change. I spent a day with a girl’s body but my original face, another with a girls face on top of my normal body. One day anatomically female, but otherwise looking entirely my normal self.

That was one of the worst ones actually, as he let me go home like that. Usually he’d change me back before the day was over, so my parent’s never suspected what was going on, but that day he figured no-one would notice, so I spent the entire day and night sitting to pee, even though everything else seemed normal. He tired of that one quickly enough though, as only he and I knew that he’d actually done something, so it wasn’t funny for anyone else, and it had to be funny for everyone else.

The next day I had my first pair of breasts.

No bra. Not even a blouse. Just a humungous pair of melons straining the buttons on my very ordinary boy’s shirt. During the first lesson, the teacher sent me to the office to borrow some girl clothes to wear. That was a new level of humiliation – actually having to deliberately change into girl’s clothes rather than having them changed on me.

I knew who it was who was doing the changing. Everyone knew who it was, even the teachers, but no-one did anything about it. Me, because the only thing worse than being a victim was being a victim who tells the authorities what’s happening. I thought my reputation was bad because of what he was doing to me, but there would be a whole new order of hell to live through if I gave myself the reputation as a snitch. The other kids were too busy enjoying themselves, and too afraid of joining me in my daily humiliation to stand up to my tormentor, and the teachers were in pretty much the same situation. If they’d insisted I be left alone, for one thing they would never have been able to enforce the ruling, and for another, they’d be in danger of a similar sort of humiliation being visited on them.

There were stories of a particularly disliked new teacher a year or two before I came. She managed to get on the wrong side of the individual who was making my life so miserable. Half way through every class she taught, she’d suddenly find herself stark naked in front of everyone. After that, she lasted less than a day.

So the teachers couldn’t do anything.

Besides, there was the school bullying policy.

Bullying was encouraged.

I never heard it said in so many words, but there were always teachers present before school, between lessons, at lunchtime and break times, at the end of the day when I would be released from my torment. These teachers would mete out admonitions and punishments for such things as running in the corridors, bad language, not having your tie tied correctly, chewing gum in class, having your skirt too short or being out of uniform.

I was pulled up for those last two almost daily.

When I would try to say it wasn’t my fault, that I didn’t choose to be dressed like that, that I’d come to school properly dressed in the appropriate school uniform, there would be a slightly raised eyebrow, the vaguest ghost of a smile and an occasional comment to the effect of ‘wasn’t it my fault? Really?’ Then they’d give me punishment, which usually involved spending lunchtime and or break times picking up litter, or cleaning graffiti off the school walls. Always in public where pretty much everyone in the school would wolf-whistle and laugh every time I bent to my work.

I learnt quickly enough to stoop down in girly fashion rather than bend. It earned me derisive laughter of another sort, but it wasn’t as bad as the comments I received whenever I showed my underwear.

In retrospect, maybe it was my fault, a little. My first day at school, pretty much the first thing I’d seen was him shouting at a pudgy little girl because she’d tripped and spilt her breakfast tray, and some of the milk had splashed his shoes. She was in tears as she knelt and used the skirts of her dress to wipe not just the shoes but the floor clean under his instruction.

I’d yelled at him to leave her alone. I never could stand bullies. I’d been transferred to this school because I’d been a victim of bullying at my previous one, though of the more conventional kind there. One too many bloody noses and a fractured wrist had been the breaking point for my parents, so they sent me here where there were no kids being beaten up.

And I’d chosen to yell at the reason why there was no violence on my first day.

There are worse things than physical bullying.

That was the point when he’d put me in my first dress and made me take over cleaning up the mess. That was when he discovered the collective school mind’s appreciation of that sort of humiliation, that sort of humour, and my fate had been sealed.

The pudgy little girl never thanked me – not in words, not to my face. I don’t think I’d have expected her to in any case. She was a couple of years younger than me, and younger students didn’t talk to older ones. One of the unwritten rules of pupil interaction. She was always nearby though, whenever I was being displayed and disgraced in front of the school, whenever everyone else wandered by laughing at me, I’d see her standing a way off, looking sad for me. On rare occasions, when no-one else was looking, I’d offer her a smile, and she’d smile back.

I never felt quite alone when she was nearby.

The year passed, and what couldn’t be cured had to be endured. After a while I found myself actually looking forward to my daily transformation. Being laughed at only hurts when you care about what people think of you, and I found that the more they laughed at me, the less I cared for most of the other kids in the school. I also found that being made to walk several miles in the shoes of a girl, painful as they were, I learnt to appreciate life from a girl’s point of view. It’s nowhere near as demeaning as most boys seem to think.

I made the mistake once of getting into my girly role. One day he altered me to look like some centrefold he’d been masturbating over, dressed in the same skimpy outfit. I used the day to tease every lad in the school who’d come near me. For a change, I was the one enjoying the outcome as they went away red fast and flustered with a bulge in their trousers, confused and disgusted that they should be aroused by someone they knew to be a boy.

He was angered by it beyond measure. I was supposed to be his play thing. I was supposed to suffer for what reason I doubt he even remembered now.

The next day he turned me into some gross caricature of a cartoon character – female of course. And for the rest of the month, I went through every female cartoon personage he could think of.

Something else I endured with as much grace as I could find, which infuriated him further.

Somewhere in the middle of it, I earned the respect of a few of the girls.

Not that they’d show it in public of course, but notes were posted into my locker. Anonymous ones, but there was something in the looks that came my way from some of the girls in my class that suggest I knew who they were.

See, women’s intuition isn’t reserved solely for women. Anyone can develop it if they get their girl on.

Holidays and half term breaks were my salvation in those early days. A week or two without the daily misery of being girlified. Yes I know, there’s that word again. The crazy thing was as the end of the summer term drew closer, I wondered how I would cope with six weeks out of a dress.

It disturbed me more than a little. I didn’t know if this was something I’d learned or had conditioned into me, or if it had simply been latent in me a drawn out by the constant onslaught of girlification.

Maybe he was messing with my head, making me want this more.

You’re not supposed to be able to change people’s behaviour with magic. I’m not sure if that’s a ruling, that magicians figured making such changes were a step too far into the unacceptable, or if there’s actually something built into the mass mind that enables magic that won’t allow such changes.

One way or another, I was changing though.

Summer came, and with the start of the holidays I began to mope about the place without being able to explain why. My parents decided it was the onset of hormones and left me to it. I’d find myself looking at my sister’s clothes drying on the line and wistful thoughts would drift through my mind. Then I’d get angry. I was going through a growth spurt and there was no way I’d fit into her things. Worst was I resented having those thoughts and feelings.

Then about a week into the holidays, a phone call came out of the blue.

“Hi, it’s Kimmie. You know, from school? I was wondering if you’d like to come over.”

No-one had invited round all year, and now this? She was one of the girls I’d thought had been leaving me messages though, so for the first time in a very long time, I allowed myself a degree of hope. Someone who maybe wanted to spend time with me because they liked me.

I mean that’s what friendship is, right? Mutual respect and appreciation. Someone who enjoys your company which makes you feel good, while they’re feeling good because you enjoy being with them.

I decided to ignore the inevitable alarm bells going on at the back of my mind. A year of being picked on and humiliated is going to leave echoes of paranoia, and I had my share of them. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t me they’re not out to get you, but it doesn’t mean they are either. I agreed, wrote down her address and went to tell my parents I was going to a friend’s house.

The looks of relief on their faces were enough to make me want to laugh and cry at the same time.

It didn’t take long to bike over to Kimmie’s. Her parents owned an enormous house with massive, walled off grounds, a swimming pool, the works. It was warm enough outside, she suggested going for a swim.

I hadn’t thought to bring swimming gear. I mean she hadn’t said she had a pool.

She bit her lip and looked at me through long, fluttering eyelashes.

“I have something that might fit,” she said, almost apologetically. “I mean, I don’t know how you’ll feel about it, but you know, you’re used to wearing girl clothes, aren’t you?”

My heart sank and leapt at the same time. Was this some bizarre way of continuing the humiliation into the summer? Was I wrong about her? Part of me didn’t care. Part of me wanted this. It was a tankini – I hated myself that I even knew what one was – Black with a halter neck with a paisley pattern picked out in white on the bodice, and a sewn in black skirt. It was large enough to fit me which had me raising my eyebrows.

“I went through a big phase a few years back.” She was blushing furiously enough that I believed her. “I mean you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but it’s just us here. My parents are out for the day, and I’ve seen you in girl clothes before…”

It’s disturbing how easy I was to persuade. With my broadening chest and increasing hairiness, I looked more than a little ridiculous, so I forgave her the suppressed giggle when she saw me changed for the first time. We headed down to the pool, and the water was deliciously cool after the hot summer sun.

We swam, and we chatted and we sunned ourselves. I could feel a nervousness about her, but didn’t really think much of it, I mean I was nervous enough myself being about a girl I liked. I was relaxing and enjoying myself – truly enjoying myself – for the first time in over a year, when the others arrived.

I looked over in panic at Kim, whose eyes were now averted, and whose expression had turned miserable. The nervousness I had sensed in her was now grown to all out fear, which was when knew I was in trouble.

“I’m sorry,” she said before the crowd made its way round to us. “He made me. He knew I’d been passing you notes, and he told me what he’d do to me if I didn’t do this.”

There wasn’t time for any more. It seemed that most of our year had been invited to this pool party, with him leading them in.

“Well if it isn’t the girly boy,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t just me that liked putting you in dresses.”

Dutiful laughter came from his retinue.

“But this is all wrong. You don’t look girly enough.”

I felt myself change. Hair growing, breasts growing, waist narrowing, hips broadening. The only part of me not responding to his girlification choosing that moment to stand to attention in involuntary recognition that I actually had missed this in some deep down twisted way.

“Oh that’s just wrong,” he announced, accompanied by sycophantic snickers. “That just won’t do at all. Kimmie, suck him off.”

So I received my first ever blow job in full view of the school. It wasn’t for me to enjoy, but rather to humiliate Kimmie for daring to be my friend, and as a warning to the two or three other girls I knew felt vaguely kindly thoughts towards me.

It was over soon enough. I felt ashamed, though I’m sure not as ashamed as Kim. When it was done, he looked around, rubbing his hands with anticipation.

“Right,” he said, “didn’t you say you had a maid around here somewhere? Oh no, that’s him isn’t it?”

The tankini transformed into something out of a fetish catalogue. Black satin dress with puffed sleeves and full if short skirts, white lacy apron, white lace petticoats holding the skirt out, black tights, high heels – I don’t know how high, but it felt like I was standing on tiptoe.

“My friends and I want drinks,” he told me. “If you need any help, we can always do with two maids.” He looked significantly at Kimmie, who looked suitably afraid, and cowed. I decided to believe her, that she hadn’t wanted this. It wouldn’t be fair to put her through worse this afternoon.

The pool had an outside bar next to it. Kimmie and I had already made use of it, so I had an idea what was there. The requests started coming, which I filled as swiftly as I could, starting with him of course. I knew the drill.

The rest of the day passed with me doing the bidding of everyone there, receiving numerous slaps across the backside, tottering about on my ridiculous heels. I was used to walking on stilts, so I just got on with it. Short steps, wiggling backside, more humiliation.

At one point in the afternoon, a police car pulled into the driveway and a minute later, the bell rang.

“Go see who it is,” he told me.

As I headed off to obey, I could feel myself changing. Breasts deflating, chest broadening, hair shortening. A glance in the mirror and I could see it was me in a maid’s dress. The usual me, not the girlified one. No sense in defying him at this stage.

I opened the door and the two police officers cracked up. Stern faces dissolving into uncontrolled laughter.

When they’d recovered enough to be able to speak, they told me there had been a complaint about the noise and could I ask for the music to be turned down.

I closed the door on them, face as red as it’s ever been, watching them through the window as they laughed their way back to the car and out the drive.

Of course I then had to face the laughter of my classmates when I returned to the pool still looking very much my male self in the stupid flouncy outfit.

I turned the music down without asking, which angered him a small amount. I’d probably pay for it later, but I was angry too, and for the moment I didn’t care.

The afternoon continued until half an hour before Kimmie’s parents were due back, at which point the rent-a-mob disappeared and I was left to help Kim clear up the mess.

I was back in the tankini, looking as much my old self as I had earlier in the day, with the exception that he’d replaced my male genitalia with female ones again.

We got the place cleaned up and me changed back into my normal clothes well before Kimmie’s parents arrived. She was all apologetic as I collected my bike. I told her I probably wouldn’t come around again. Probably best for both our sakes.

Riding a bike with a clitoris was a very different experience and one I might have enjoyed under other circumstances. Oddly though, despite the unpleasantness of the day, being secretly female under all my male outward appearance brought an unexpected improvement to my mood. I wondered how long he’d leave me like this this time. Part of me hoped it would be for a while.

A couple of weeks passed and my lack of testicles started to have something of an effect on the rest of my body. My newly formed muscles began to diminish, my body hair reduced, my head hair became fuller and richer and I all but stopped having to shave. My parents noticed, but decided not to say anything about it yet. They were probably worried about drugs as there were a couple of time I found evidence that my room had been searched, but they didn’t confront me about what was happening, so I didn’t say anything.

Then I received my second phone call of the summer. The real surprise was that this time it was him.

“Greetings girly one.”

“What do you want?”

“Straight to the point. Fine, I want you to come to the pharmacy on the high street.”

“Can’t you just leave me alone for a few weeks?” There was more exasperation than pleading in my voice, but I still despised myself for asking.

“I’ll think about it. In the meantime, if you don’t want something unpleasant to happen to you, you’ll be in the pharmacy in half an hour.”

I sighed and hung up. It took all of thirty seconds to grab my wallet and my keys, and I was out the door and on my bike.

Yeah, I’d been riding a lot the past few weeks.

He was already there when I pushed open the shop door. The bell jingled merrily and a young assistant appeared at the till. She looked bored, but that was her problem. Mine was waiting for me half way down one of the aisles.

“So?” I asked showing more irritation than reverend fear.

It annoyed him. I saw his nostrils flare, but he regained control quickly enough. He replaced his scowl with a smirk, pointed his chin at a nearby shelf.

“Unless I miss my guess, you’ll be wanting some of those next week. I suggest you buy some.”

I looked at the shelf full of boxes he’d indicated and went into a slow burn.

“Aren’t you taking a risk, doing all this out in the open, and away from school?”

“What risk?”

“Well there were the two cops a couple of weeks ago, then the shop keeper here. If word of what’s happening gets back to my mum and dad, they’ll have the law on you.”

“You reckon? Do you seriously think anyone will try to prosecute me with what I can do to them?”

“Can you though? I thought you could only guide magic a little, not control it completely.”

“You think they’ll be prepared to take the chance? Besides, my Dad’s got some clout with the local law. The worst I’d get is a gentle slap on the wrists.”

“If my parents find out what’s been happening to me, they’ll pull me out of that school, and then who’ll you pick on?”

The question echoed around inside my brain. Why hadn’t I said something to my parents? If I’d been pulled out of school when this started, I’d be in a far better place right now.

“Well you’d better hope they don’t find out, ‘cos if you leave, you’ll leave as you are now. Do fancy living the rest of your life with a snatch?”

“You’re a fucking arsehole, you know that don’t you?”

“Whatever, you’re nothing but a fucking cunt.” He laughed at his own joke – a sure sign of arseholedom.

“So what did you say to Kim a couple of weeks back to get her to do what you wanted?” I grabbed a packet of tampons from the shelf and stared at him, doing my best to look like it didn’t bother me being where I was and doing what I was.

“Turns out girls don’t like the idea of being boys any more than boys like the idea of being girls. Who knew?”

“You threatened to turn her into a guy?”

“Well I did suggest that since you were being girly so much of the time, it might suit her better to be a boy if she fancied you that much. You have to believe how quickly she denied her feelings after that.”

It was easy enough to believe.

“Go pay for your crap. There’s something else you’re going to do for me before I let you go.”

I headed for the counter. The assistant looked slightly less bored when I presented her with my selection, and was on her phone and texting within seconds of taking my money.

He followed me out.

“Speaking of fucking cunts,” he said, talking in a low voice from behind me, “I have an itch that needs scratching, and I think it’s about time I put that gift I gave you to its intended purpose.”

I spun round and stared him in the face, my expression wavering between disbelief and disgust.

“What is this?” I hissed. “You got some latent homosexual thing going on there?”

Again the nostril flare. It felt good that I was getting to him, if only in little ways.

“No, it’s more of a dominance thing. You know, like used to happen thousands of years ago? Back then they had to use that back passage ‘cos they didn’t have much choice. Me, I make my choices, and I rather fancy making use of your front one since I’ve been kind enough to give you one.”

“And what makes you think I’ll let you?”

“How about I turn your father all girly if you don’t?”

“Like I said, I doubt you could. You don’t so much control your magic as make suggestions to it.”

“And nothing happens unless it appeals to the baser nature of my retinue at school, yeah? What are the chances they’ll find it amusing if at next parents evening you and your dad end up in matching dresses, with matching boob jobs?”

Fuck, that would probably work. And he was just the sort of narcissistic sociopath to give it a try.

He read the defeat in my eyes and smiled his little victory smile, indicating a nearby alleyway.

So that’s how I lost my virginity. Not anything like the way I’d envisaged. For one thing, in my version I’d been the one doing the poking rather than being poked. It hurt for a bit, then it was just uncomfortable, and horribly humiliating. Staring into his smug expression while he did his thing made me nauseous. I could understand why such An experience was so horrific for girls, but I evidently wasn’t so girly in that respect. Dosed up on oestrogen, and lacking any significant amounts of testosterone, I couldn’t help the tears from flowing, but I’d be buggered if I’d give him the satisfaction of crying out. What saved me from the horror of the whole thing was the rage that was building inside me. It didn’t take him long before he convulsed and went all cross-eyed. He pulled his todger back out before it went too flaccid, and tucked it away back in his jeans.

I let him leave and sat there nursing my growing resentment for a while before heading home.

The packet of tampons I hid in the bathroom, behind Mum’s. I ran a bath and sat in scalding hot water until it went tepid. I scrubbed at myself for most of that time, but somehow I doubted I’d ever feel clean again.

Fortunately I started my first period the next day.

I say fortunately. At least I didn’t have days or weeks of waiting and wondering if I was going to end up as a mum.

On the down side, I had to live with cramps and a leaking vagina.

There’s a distinctive smell that accompanies that time of the month, and I was pretty damn sure my mother would figure things out if I didn’t do something about it, so I volunteered to join a group working on clearing a polluted river in the neighbourhood. By the time I’d been wading around in what passed for water in that corner of our green and pleasant land, I had such a stench about me that anything I was inadvertently generating was lost in it all. My parents weren’t too keen when I came home stinking of sewer, but it played into my coping strategy really well. For one thing, I had a place to throw my used products without raising an eye. They just added to the revolting jetsam that filled the rest of the clogged river channel. For another thing, though it offended my parent’s nostrils, it hid my own particular musk until the whole thing cleared up on its own.

He left me alone for the rest of the summer break. He left me with female genitalia, but he did leave me alone. I managed to complete my holiday assignments in good time and was almost looking forward to going back to school when the phone rang for the third time that summer.

Well okay, it had been ringing a lot more than that, but it was always for my parents. Except this time it wasn’t.

It was him again. For a moment I was afraid he might want to dip his wick again, but he’d moved on to new torments.

“School starts next week,” he said, as if I didn’t know. “If you want your meat and two veg back, I want you to turn up wearing a girl’s uniform.”

I didn’t say anything, just put the phone down.

Again there wasn’t much choice. There was a charity shop nearby that dealt in second-hand school uniforms, so I made my way there one afternoon. Again with the humiliation as it took several tries to find a dress and blouse that fit. The first two I tried on were too big, my having lost so much of my upper body mass in the past few weeks.

The phone rang again the day before we were due back. Yet again my tormentor had something new.

“I want to see you leave your house wearing that dress. No sneaking into the woods to get changed halfway there; I want you parents to know that you are choosing to come to school dressed as a girl.”

So Monday morning came. First day of school. I came down from my bedroom in the grey pinafore dress and white blouse with its rounded Peter Pan collar. I even had on a pair of pop socks and a pair of cheap flats.

Mum and Dad exchanged horrified glances as I joined them for breakfast.

“I lost a bet,” I said. I doubt they believed me, but they were still trying to deny something was wrong with their son. They’d quite a lot of practice, so they did quite well.

I walked out the door ten minutes earlier than usual. My bike had a crossbar which wasn’t going to work with the dress. Instead I had the shame of walking through my neighbourhood with curtains twitching and early morning gardeners staring wide eyed and slack jawed. If this was supposed to make me miserable, it was backfiring big time. It had taken long enough, but somewhere over the summer break, I’d stopped feeling sorry for myself, and in the place of the usual sense of helpless distress, I could sense a growing rage.

A quarter of a mile from school, I picked up a retinue of hecklers, jeering me through the gates. Kimmie was among them, adding her own jibes but not looking happy about it, and at the edge was another face – tall and slim, and somehow familiar without being recognisable. She wasn’t joining in.

He was waiting at the gate, propping up the wall as I approached. I was hidden from the world by my peers crowding around me, which meant he probably felt safe using his magic even before I’d entered the school grounds. He stepped out in front of me, obstructing me, slowing me to a stop.

“You really do like dressing up like a girl don’t you?” he asked, much to the amusement of those standing around. “But like I said last time, you look ridiculous dressed like that. Boy’s don’t look right in girls’ clothes. Why don’t I change you to match? You’d like that wouldn’t you?”

I didn’t get a chance to reply. I felt the familiar creeping sensation as my body changed, every part of me switching genders. He gave me back my male genitalia as he’d promised, but at the same time, switched the rest of my appearance to wet dream material. I hadn’t put on a bra under the dress, so the enormous breasts he gave me weighed uncomfortably on my chest. The hair he gave me was wavy, ash blond and fell to the small of my back. My legs and arms weren’t much thinner than what they had become over the previous weeks, but I did lose a few inches, and my waist and hips adjusted to a more feminine shape.

“You should have a boyfriend too, don’t you think?”

“What? No!” Kimmie shouted as he turned his eyes on her. I had my own first-hand view of what he’d being doing to me for over a year as both her body and clothes altered and she grew, tall and muscular, hair shorter, soft delicate face broadening into something more rugged and handsome.

Behind him the head teacher was running towards us, a look of panic on his face and terror radiating off him like a beacon.

“What are you doing?” he yelled. “Get into the school grounds now.”

The urgency in his voice was enough that even he looked uncertain for a moment, then turned and took the few steps necessary to pass through the gates.

The head was looking nervously into the sky as he ushered us all in and directed us to the main building.

“Go to the hall and wait there.” There was no arguing with him. We all did as we were told, picking up on his nervousness, and the wild eyed looks of the other teachers who were running out to join him.

I looked at Kim. As much of a hunk as I’ve ever seen in a Hollywood release. She looked back at me, torn between distress over what had happened to us, and fear of what was bothering the teachers. She put an arm around my shoulder, which felt oddly comforting, for both of us if I could read her expression well enough. I allowed her to pull me into her side.

We didn’t even make it to the main school’s front doors when the teachers’ fears were realised. As big as the main hall itself, and resplendent with glistening red scales, the dragon dived out of the sky, extending its wings to brake its decent, and landing with crash that demolished half the classrooms in the north wing. It let out a mighty roar that all but drowned the sounds of terrified screaming around me.

The fear around me was palpable, a torrent of raw emotion. The enormous creature climbed down off the pile of rubble and started stalking towards us. Kids all around me were screaming and scrabbling towards the main school building, the teachers mingling with them. There was nothing could touch a dragon except magic.

When they’d first started appearing in the skies, the armed forces had gone against them. Platoons of soldiers had been wiped out in a single raging breath, their guns and even their rocket launchers doing nothing much more than fuelling the creatures’ monstrous appetites for destruction. Tanks couldn’t touch them and melted to slag, along with their crews, under the onslaught of dragon breath, fighter aircraft lasted a little longer thanks to their speed and agility, but even their most powerful missiles didn’t so much as tarnish the glistening scales. They’d even tried nukes, creating hundreds of square miles of radioactive wasteland, but not even touching the monsters themselves.

It was no wonder the teachers were running as fast as the kids. The best they could hope to do was provide a distraction so more people could get away, and most of them didn’t have that kind of courage. Not that I could blame them. You try facing a giant lizard with fangs longer than your arm and breath hot enough to melt rock and tell me you can stand your ground.

I pulled away from Kim who was trying to pull me into the building. Only magic. That meant him.

He was trying to push his way through the crowd, only a couple of yards away. I grabbed him by the arm and turned him towards me.

“Only magic works,” I yelled at him. “Only you can do anything here.”

He stared at me, wide eyed with terror and pulled his arm out of my grasp. There was a pungent smell about him, and a dark stain in his trousers. Worse was the smell of fear about him. That was palpable, like currents of air swirling about.

I turned back to the dragon making its way slowly towards me with lizard-like gate. The young girl I’d noticed earlier stood transfixed in front of it, rigid with terror by the looks of it. The dragon was staring at her, drawing in breath.

Something snapped in me then. The rage that had been simmering inside me most of the summer welled up, and with an incoherent roar, I ran out between the dragon and its intended victim. Something inside me had grabbed hold of the waves of terror swirling about me, pulled them to me, whipping them up into a whirling maelstrom. My hair and my dress flapped around me like rags in a gale.

The great beast noticed me, turned my way, ignoring the girl for an instant. It reared up on its hind legs, spread its wings, drew in breath. It was awe inspiring, not so much awesome as awful. Maws gaped and I could see the blazing red fires forming at the back of its throat.

Fire and ice, I thought. Bending the full force of my will to the energy swirling about me, I directed an icy blast straight into the cavernous depth of the creatures throat.

It screamed, if a creature that size can be said to scream. The sound that came from it was immense, deafening, terrifying.

I kept on with the blast of cold rage until the creature erupted into a million fragments of icy gore.

It was over, but somehow the currents of fear still swirled about me, as strong, if not stronger than they had been before.

I turned to the young girl, who was smiling at me. Something about that smile.

“You’re the one I rescued from him on my first day here, aren’t you?”

She nodded, the smile broadening. She was going to be quite beautiful now that she’d grown out of her puppy fat.

“Why don’t you change yourself into something more comfortable?” she asked. Something in the tone of her voice sounding at odds with her appearance.

“What do you mean?”

“Do you mind?” She reached into the stream of energy flowing about me and transformed herself. She was older, perhaps ten years older than me, and as beautiful as I’d anticipated. “It’s yours to do with as you want,” she said indicating the power swirling about me.

“I thought you could only influence magic, direct it where it wants to go.”

“For the most part that’s true. Like him,” she indicated my former tormentor with a flick of her head. “He’s a sort of social chameleon. Has a natural sense for what everyone’s feeling and gives it voice. The sort who leads by finding out where everyone’s going and then walking in front. I came here to evaluate him, but he has no more control than the people around him give him. He’s nothing. Not worth shit in this game.”

“He caused me enough grief this past year.”

“Only because he was able to manipulate a bunch of weak minded individuals into thinking it would be fun to torment you. I doubt he’ll be able to touch you now.”

“Why?”

“Because they’re afraid of you.

“It started off the other way round. He bent you to his perverted will and made you afraid of him, but you found a way to turn that fear into anger. Fear controls you, but you can control anger, direct it.

“We don’t like to advertise it too much, because too many people taking direct control would be bad for the world. We’d like to make sure the right sort of people end up with real power, real magic.

“Go on, try it. You can change yourself into anything you like. You can change him too if you feel like it.”

I focused my will. The hair was annoying me, constantly whipping into my face, but I actually liked it long. I willed it to stop moving, to arrange itself down my back. In my mind I twisted it into intricate braids, until it hung down my back, controlled, elegant.

“You can change yourself back into a guy you know?”

I didn’t want to though. For all the torment being forced into this shape had brought me, I now found that having the choice, I wanted this. I reached out with my mind again and changed the one part of me that wasn’t right. The part I had worn a dress to get back.

Yeah, I wasn’t too keen on the dress either. School uniforms aren’t designed to be elegant. What I needed was a bit of silk and lace. And there it was. Ice blue to match the pallor of my skin and the sheer whiteness of my hair.

“Well there’s a surprise.”

“Yeah, for me too. But I just realised that I only started getting mad enough to do something about this after he turned me into a girl. When all’s said and done, I think I like it this way better.”

“Well you can always change your mind you know.”

“Good to know.”

The currents of fear were dropping a little. The dragon was gone and it didn’t seem like I was about to do anything particularly nasty, so confidence was growing in those standing around. My classmates were approaching, a little warily as they saw my changed appearance and the girl transformed into a woman beside me.

I pointed at Kim and directed some of the flow of energy into her. It was surprisingly effortless putting her back into her own body and her own clothes. She’d been a little flat chested before so I gave her a slight enhancement there. Not enough to give her backache, but enough to make her happier. She’d also had a mole on her right cheek which I’d seen her staring at in the mirror before now, and hiding with her hair. I didn’t bother to give that back to her.

“I think you’ll be happier like this,” I told her, and she nodded back through teary eyed gratitude.

Next I turned towards him. He recoiled, whimpering.

“Baby,” I said, and an instant later he was wearing a nappy. At least it did away with the nasty smelling stain in his crotch.

“What are you going to do to me?” he asked the terror still leaching off him enough to keep my powers sufficiently fed.

“Well I don’t know,” the woman beside me said. “I mean as a sensitive you should have been told about the dangers of exercising your gift outside of protected grounds.”

That was why we didn’t see much of the monsters in the world. The demons had their domain in the night, which was why everyone was typically behind closed and magically protected doors before the sun went down. As for the dragons, they preferred the wildernesses that surrounded our towns and cities. Transport between human population centres had gone underground decades before, leaving the wide open spaces to the emperors of the air, but they were still attracted by magic, which meant that most places where magic might ever be used – houses, offices, institutions like the school – all had protective spells placed over them so that magic used inside their bounds didn’t leak out. By transforming Kimmie and me in front of the school instead of inside it, he had lit a beacon big and bright enough to attract any dragons in the vicinity. The monster that had come was large enough that its territory would have been immense, so the chances of other dragons being attracted was fairly small.

My new best friend turned my way and smiled.

“I think I’ll let your schoolmate decide what happens to you. I mean it’s only fair that after what you put him through, you discover what justice really is.”

The wave of fear that poured off him was heady stuff indeed. I could have turned him into a slug if I wanted to, and I was sorely tempted, I can’t deny it. But with great power and all that.

So I’m a Stan Lee fan. Who isn’t these days?

“I think we could give him another chance,” I said nonchalantly. Fear turned to relief, but I wasn’t finished yet. “I mean he’s made such a mess of his life, I think he could do with having another go at growing up, and I don’t think he’s cut out to have the sort of power he has. He could also do with learning to respect women a little more.”

“So what does that mean?” my friend asked with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.

“You’re not going to be using that pudgy little girl look around here anymore are you?”

Her smile broadened as his body started to shrink and to change.

I wasn’t that cruel, I gave him a dolly to play with.

“Give us a hand?” my friend asked nodding at the pile of rubble that had been half of our school. It didn’t take long to put the bricks back together again and in their right place.

“What happens now?” I asked when the work was done.

“I think you have an English lesson in ten minutes.”

“No, I mean things are going to be a little different around here now.”

“So enjoy yourself, but don’t turn into a douche like that guy. You saw how it ended up for him. And don’t use magic outside of protected areas. We were lucky this time. Usually there’s a lot more collateral damage.”

“Usually?”

“It happens more often than you think. We’ll be back for you when you graduate. You have talent and temperament and we need your sort to help keep our world from the brink of madness. With a bit of effort, we might even be able to make this into a better place to live.”

“Did you do it deliberately?”

“What?”

“Allow him to pick on you my first day here.”

“What if I did?”

“It was a mean trick.”

“You didn’t have to come to my rescue.”

“What if I hadn’t?”

“Then I’d have been disappointed, and I’d have looked elsewhere.”

“So you’re a talent scout of sorts.”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“And everything I’ve been through this past year?”

“That’s why we don’t stop bullying anymore, especially of the sort he used. Sensitives like him aren’t much use in the grand scheme of things, but when they’re arseholes as well, their energies can help to bring out real talent.”

“What if it hadn’t?”

“You’re full of what ifs, aren’t you? The fact is it did. It is harsh, I agree, but you know childbirth is painful. Anything worthwhile has its cost. If it had looked like he was going to crush you, I was there and would have stopped it.”

“Do you think his parent will mind having a daughter now?”

“His mother will be delighted. Mothers like having daughters to dress up and turn into young ladies. As for his father, I think he’ll see this as an improvement over the son he had.”

“Will he end up looking like you?”

“A bit, unless you change him back. And unless you intend to change him back, you might want to start calling him her.”

“If she looks half as good as you, shell get better than she deserves.”

“I don’t know. Good looks isn’t half what it’s cracked up to be. She’ll end up with a lot of attention from blokes who are likely to want just what she gave you in the alley.”

“You knew about that?”

“Yes, but I could also see that you’d handle it well enough, and that rather than destroying you, it would push you closer to where you need to be.

“Enough with the questions. This is your place now, at least for the time being. Do a better job with it than he did and I’ll see you in a few years.”

With that she vanished, just as the bell went. I turned back towards the school. I had an English lesson to get to.

-Fin-