Mel’s new pet turtle sat on her shoulder, rubbing its head against her neck. She set Poe down on the coffee table before slinging up her backpack and walking to the door. I asked why I couldn’t just stop in a few times a day to feed him; housesitting seemed like overkill for a turtle.
“It’s a new environment for him,” she explained. “Imagine if you just found yourself alone in a strange place like that.”
“Isn’t that what you’re about to do?”
“And I’m terrified!”
She kissed me goodbye.
I felt a new sadness at our impending weeklong separation, but solo journeying, as Mel insisted, was a necessity for every spiritualist.
I ordered a pizza for dinner and ate it on the couch in the glow of reruns, Poe standing docile on the armrest. Around eight, Mel skyped me from the floor of the airport during a layover, eyes shining with excess caffeine. I did my best Poe impression, sitting on the couch doing nothing but for the occasional one-inch movement of the head, performed at glacial speed. A muffled voice announced something overhead and Mel grabbed either side of the screen, shaking as if she were holding my arms.
“Gotta jet!” She said. “Literally!”
I blew a kiss through the screen.
I got a beer from Mel’s fridge and wandered into her bedroom, opening her closet and running my fingers over the abundance of cardigans and long skirts. Before I could decide whether it was a big deal I had swapped my pants for one of the latter and was back in the kitchen, retrieving another drink. Poe looked at me vaguely, making his way across the tiles. We watched an old movie and I went through three more beers before retiring to the bedroom, drunk, and masturbating under the sheets, the guilt of doing so within Mel’s clothing a dull prickle outside the bubble of alcohol and novelty.
In the morning I fed Poe and threw Mel’s skirt in the washer, bemused by my spontaneous cross-dressing. It wasn’t as if Mel would care; she would laugh, ask if I’d enjoyed it, and be on a new subject within the minute. I was just as ready to forget about it when I went to take a shower and saw my face in the mirror. Or rather Mel’s. Mel’s face. My face was Mel’s. I removed my clothes and examined the rest; my body, it seemed, had remained male. I left the bathroom and got a second opinion from the mirror in the bedroom. Mel’s red, curly hair. The lone freckle on her cheek. Her large hazel eyes and tiny cartoon mouse ears.
I took my first shower with a female head, enjoying the lushness of Mel’s locks as I ran my hands through them, shampooing twice. Around eleven, Mel skyped from her hostel in some country I’d forgotten the name of.
“Holy shit.” She squinted at me. “How are you doing that?”
I hesitated before recounting the whole thing, making sure to include that the skirt was being washed. My voice had elevated, drifting into Mel’s timbre.
“That’s wild,” Mel said. “But I still think you’re fucking with me.” Someone called Mel’s name and she looked up and nodded. “Gotta mosey M,” she said. “We’re checkin’ antelopes today!”
“I’ll call tomorrow,” Mel smiled. “Good luck with your face.”
Once the skirt was done drying I slid off my pants and replaced it around my hips; perhaps its power went both ways.
There was nothing to eat for lunch so I went to the store around the corner for ramen, the clerk avoiding eye contact for the duration of the process. Back at Mel’s, I went to the mirror to find that I had grown breasts. I examined my pubic area, where it seemed the parts were in transition, a blank stretch of skin taking the place of any genitals. I spent the rest of the day inside, a hybrid human.
In the morning I threw the covers off and peered beneath Mel’s skirt. Clitoris. Vagina. The whole deal. Poe crawled over the pillow and nestled into my shoulder, rubbing his head against my neck.
Later that day Mel skyped from halfway up a mountain, moving the computer around in a circle to display the foggy vista. It seemed the alp-side service there was exceptional. I took off my clothes to exhibit my fully female form.
“Damn M,” Mel said. “You look hot.”
“This is real,” I said, my voice a Mel echo. “I promise M.”
“Okay,” Mel shrugged. “Well, you know I’m bi.”
“Didn’t you just see this?” Mel flung her arms out wide. “The world is big ma’ lady.”
After we hung up I sat naked on the couch and wondered how to tell the world I’d been turned into a Mel clone. My solution was to call work and report sickness, forgetting that I could no longer speak as Mason Aplin, video clerk of two years.
“He’s sick I mean,” I told my boss. “I’m his girlfriend. He can’t talk. Strep throat.”
“Right,” my boss grumbled. “Well come back when you’re ready, Mason.”
I looked around for Poe, eventually finding him at the foot of the stairs, lying on his shell with his feet struggling in the air. I turned him over and he resumed wandering as if nothing had happened.
When Mel got home, we spent a long time just looking at each other. I wanted to kiss her, to rub my new body all over her, but I expected it would take some adjustment.
“This is gonna be like advanced masturbation,” Mel said, squeezing my wrist, her wrist, our wrist. Poe stood motionless between us, clearly conflicted.
We watched an old movie at Mel’s suggestion and she tried to enjoy it, getting nearly two-thirds of the way through before falling asleep. I woke her when it ended and we tangled up in bed, our synchronous forms cuddled tight.
“Are you sure this is okay?” I said meekly, afraid of the answer.
Mel slid her hand down to my boxers and began rubbing my crotch. I took a deep breath.
“I love you,” she said, pressing her lips into my neck and up across my jaw. “I love you M.”
Timothy Day loves old jazz, bad puns, and blanket-forts, preferably at the same time. His fiction has appeared in magazines such as Menacing Hedge, Cease Cows, Jersey Devil Press, WhiskeyPaper, and others. You can visit him online at frogsmirkles.wordpress.com.
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