©1999 Hawkyn -- all rights reserved
"Let's see: Three parts aboriginal culture, two parts modern technology, and one eclipse. Stir well and..."
"Aye mate, you want some Fosters to go with ya Goana?" our guide, a Crocodile Dundee knockoff, asked as he pulled one of the large cans out of cooler in the back of the Range Rover. The lizard meat was dry and tasted like greasy shoe leather. I figured anything would help to wash the taste out of my mouth and gladly accepted the can. After two long gulps and a quick spit I told him that I think we'll stick with the food we brought with us for the rest of the expedition.
He laughed and tossed the remainder of the charred reptile over to his dog. The dog took a quick sniff and quickly drug it off into the behind a rock, hopefully to bury it.
"We oughta make it ta Jackaby's Hole by eight in the morning. Is that gonna be good enough for ya?" he asked while tossing me a can of Spam from the box next to the cooler.
"Sure, the eclipse won't begin till about eleven or so. That should provide us with plenty of time to set up all of our equipment," Joe answered while I worked on opening the Spam without breaking the little metal strip.
Bubba, the guide, simply pulled out a very large hunting knife and hacked his can in two. As he began digging the meat out with the end of his blade he looked over at his assistant. "Chatoo, you want some of this?"
"No, rather eat Goana than that." The shadowy aborigine replied with a wide, white grin.
With our meal out of the way we loaded up in the jeeps and hit the road again. Our little convoy of two jeeps and a large truck pulling a trailer had to make another seventy miles before making camp for the night. We were here to observe the eclipse that would occur the next day. The University had developed a new imaging system that they were determined to have at ground zero for this celestial event. Joe, myself and the two lab assistants that had been chosen to make this trek were completely lost by now. Bubba and Chatoo had turned off the main road shortly after we got out of Sydney early this morning. We had been traveling on dirt roads and less for the last ten hours and it was beginning to take its toll on all of us "yanks".
It took another two hours to make the seventy miles and an hour to set up camp in the dark. Bubba and Chatoo had chosen a site near a lake with a waterfall.
We quickly threw together a light meal and tried to relax around the campfire. Bubba said that we would need to pull out about six in the morning to make the last leg in time. I suggested that we had some leeway and should think about using it to get a little extra rest. Joe quickly shot that down. "We don't know if we will need that time to do the set up. We leave at six just in case." Drawing groans from the assistants.
Chatoo smiled and made a comment in aborigine that cracked both him and Bubba up. After a while we started discussing eclipses and ended up discussing some of the legends and myths associated with them. Tim, one of the assistants, asked Chatoo what his people thought about the eclipse.
Chatoo, who normally only made quick comments to Bubba, began to entertain us with some of the legends he had learned as a child in the Outback. Many of the stories centered on angry spirits and retribution. Almost all the stories had some warrior or chief who defied the spirits and ended up as a creature or forced into a position of servitude. He told of a place that caused you to become younger or older during an eclipse depending on which side of the valley you were standing on. I found myself nodding off as he was relating some story about women and was awakened by everyone laughing at some comment made at my expense.
As they continued laughing, I hit the sack and promptly passed out. It took being rolled out of the cot to get moving the next morning, but we succeeded in getting on the road at the right time and made it to Jackaby's Hole right on time and started getting up. Jackaby's Hole was three houses and a combination pub and trading post sitting at a crossroads with nothing but flat ground in all directions for at least fifty miles. This place could be the poster child for "the middle of nowhere," but its isolation also made it the perfect location to test our equipment. Three other groups were already there and setting up by the time we arrived.
By ten the Imager was up and we were doing our calibrations. Bubba and Chatoo had watched for a while then decided to camp out in the pub till it was time for the big show. With the arrival of two more groups the little crossroads was beginning to look like Grand Central Station. People in dungarees moving in all directions, generators coughing to life and cables spreading out like a disorganized spider web. A small band of locals watched the whole thing like it was a some sort of sporting event.
As eleven approached Bubba and Chatoo came out of the pub ready to watch the show. As they approached the truck Chatoo made a comment and they both started laughing. I only caught part of it, but I could tell they were amused at the sight of us in our imaging helmets. The new system we were testing had a camera, sensors and special polarizing filters built into a visor. The concept was that if you turn your head toward a dangerous light source the sun for example then the sensors would pick it up and activate the polarizing lenses to protect your eyes. Sort of like the "Sun Sensor" coatings that they put on glasses, but much faster. It would also then project a properly filtered image of what you were looking at onto the inside of the visor. Of course with these being prototypes they were bulky and had several wires sticking out. I imagine we did look like some kind of sci-fi space men to the casual observer.
As the eclipse began we all started going through the test routine. This consisted of first looking at a set of preset objects then up at the sun to determine if the system worked and how it reacted to various light levels.
All was going well, the sun was at about three quarters coverage when Terry, one of the assistants, said that his helmet was not filtering like it should. He looked down then back up just to confirm. He said that the polarizing filters were taking about two seconds to kick in. Then Joe and Larry both said that theirs were acting up as well. Joe sent Larry over to check the computer link up to insure we were not getting some kind of feedback from the data connections. About that time my visor started to slow down also.
As the eclipse reached its totality we were wrapped up in our technical problems. Terry, Joe and I were looking down then back up at the darkening sun only to be greeted with the unfiltered light streaming through the visor for a second or two then the filters would kick in. We were to wrapped up in our equipment problems to realize what was happening till it was too late.
Joe noticed it first. He looked up at the now totally eclipsed sun then looked down and froze. He stared for a moment then asked Larry if he had hooked up the satellite feed, an option we had already tested.
Larry said that the satellite system wasn't even powered up and asked why he wanted to know. "Uh, I seem to be getting some image distortion coming through the visor." Was Joe's reply. If I hadn't been wearing the visor I might have noticed that his voice sounded strange, but the visor muted most of the sounds around me.
Joe watched as what he thought were just computer-generated images shifted and changed before his eyes. It was about this time that Terry got my attention when he let out a high pitched "Holy Shit!"
I turned to look at him and quickly understood why Joe had thought the visors were malfunctioning. Terry had removed his helmet and was staring down at his body. As I watched, it looked like his chest had swollen and his pants seemed to be fitting strangely. I turned and looked at Joe and found that his body looked similar through the visor. I quickly looked toward Bubba and Chatoo figuring I would get the same distortion, but they looked normal.
Looking back over at Joe and Terry the distortion not only remained but also seemed to be growing worse. Now it looked like Terry's hair had doubled in length. As the sky darkened, I saw what looked like streaks of light dancing across their bodies. As the glowing wisps passed over and around them their clothes seemed to change to fit their still shifting forms. It dawned on me that it looked like they were becoming women. It didn't make any sense, but there was no denying the now blatant cleavage that was showing through the half-buttoned shirts each was wearing. I watched, still thinking that it must be some kind of computer glitch in the visor.
Then I felt it. It started as a tingling sensation traveling down my body. I looked down as the sensation intensified in my groin and abdomen. I knew something was happening, knew what I had seen projected by the visor when I looked at the others, but still didn't grasp that it was not more than a glitch. As I watched, the distortion effect started affecting my own image.
My hips seemed to spread as the crotch of my jeans flattened in disturbing way. The tingling moved up my waist and grew stronger in my chest. My brain finally started to kick in. What I was feeling was matching what I was seeing. My shirt suddenly hung loosely around the middle and grew tighter across the chest. Not quite all of my chest, primarily two large rounded protrusions started popping buttons off my shirt. It wasn't until then that I realized that I too was being affected by this strange force. That I was becoming a woman and that it wasn't a computer glitch.
I know, I should have put it all together sooner. So sue me. If it happened to you, you wouldn't believe it either.
I looked up toward Joe and Terry and didn't recognize them. Joe had removed his, hmm maybe I better say her, helmet. Where there had been a forty-five year old engineer with graying hair dressed in dingy dungarees; now stood what looked like a twenty-five year old co-ed with brown hair dressed in a skirt with her shirt tied at midriff and the buttons undone showing a generous amount of cleavage. Terry now sported long red hair and an hourglass figure barely constrained by her pair of short shorts. She wore her shirt tied and unbuttoned like Joe's and was just as well endowed.
As I watched they both looked themselves over and then over at me. This forced my attention back to my own changes, which now seemed to be affecting my head. I could feel the helmet suddenly loosen and shift then long blond hair crept in around the periphery of my vision. I looked down at my own now obvious breasts. The streaks of light were now swarming around me. I could feel cold fingers moving across parts of my body that weren't there five minutes before. I felt little tugs and shifts as my shirt lost the last of its buttons and then tied the shirttails together. I felt a pulling at my jeans and watched as they shrank and merged into a blue-jean mini. I stared as I realized that my legs had changed as well. They were now smooth and shapely. The kind of legs I always liked as a guy. The kind I always liked as a guy -- crap!
It suddenly felt like someone was banging on the side of my helmet. I looked around and saw the streamers of light circling around my head. It looked like they couldn't get past the helmet and were trying to trigger the release. I reached up and covered it with my hand, trying to block it. The streaks pounding on my hand, burning it till I recoiled in pain and the latch came loose. The strange lights streaked in through the gap created when the latch released and zipped across my field of vision.
As I watched them I felt a strange sensation moving through my mind. I could feel new thoughts and memories being pushed into my brain. I could remember what was, but also had new memories. I knew now that I had come here with Jodie, Terri and Laurie instead of Joe, Terry and Larry. That meant that Larry had been effected also and I hadn't seen him change. I remembered that Jodie was the youngest engineering professor at the university instead of an over the hill geek still trying to get tenure. New thoughts merged with old like those before and after pictures you see in Cosmo makeovers -- where did that come from? I still remembered that I was a male grad student named Brandon Marks who was going out with a cheerleader named Linda, but also that I was now a female grad student named Brandi Marks going out with a football player name Lance. A weird jumble of the two worlds swirled in my head till suddenly everything went black.
I awoke with Terri putting a cold rag on my forehead. "You gave us quite a scare there Brandi. I guess we should have taken a few minutes to rest after we got here. Between the trip and sun it is a wonder we all didn't pass out."
I looked around. I was on a bed in a small room. Terri, Jodie and an older gentleman were all standing around the bed. "Well young lady, I think you need some rest and re-hydration. You shouldn't have pushed yourself so hard. Not in your condition." The old gentleman said smiling and handing me a bottle of water to drink.
"My condition?" I asked. Something in the back of my mind started screaming, but the rest of my mind seemed to want to know.
"I'm sorry, I thought you knew. The only test we have to check your electrolytes also doubles as a pregnancy test. It showed positive." He said as he picked up my wrist to check my pulse.
"That must be why you have been sick every morning. Congratulations honey. I am sure Lance will be thrilled." Jodie gushed while giving me a quick hug.
I just sat there. I guess I must have looked like I was in shock because the doctor ran the other two out and then came back over to the bed.
"Are you ok, Miss? You really didn't know you were expecting, did you?" he asked in a soft voice.
"Doctor you have no idea how crazy that idea was to me just yesterday. Now, although I know it should bother me, I can't seem to get all that upset about it. I mean I should be bouncing off the walls or something. Instead I can actually say that some part of me wants this," I answered.
He looked confused by my answer. "You should want this. You are a pretty girl and the others said that your boyfriend is both rich and handsome. That's exactly what many women are out there shooting for."
I wanted to tell him what happened, to try to explain that I was not who he saw before him but the problem was that I was who he saw before him at least from this point on. He got up to leave and Laurie was at the door. The doctor told her she could see me for a few minutes but that I needed my rest. She came in and sat down beside me on the bed after closing the door.
"Brandi, did you notice anything strange during the eclipse? I mean did you see anything different afterward than you saw before it started?" She kind of looked away as she said it, hiding her expression.
"If you mean; do I remember Larry and Brandon, then yes. I did see what happened." I answered. I hoped that hearing Larry would be enough to either jog the memory or confirm to her my knowledge... if she remembered like I did.
She turned back to me with a look of relief on her face. "You remember! Then I'm not going crazy. I tried to talk to Jodie and Terri about it, but they don't remember anything about who or what they were. Do you know what happened?"
"I have a theory, did you take your helmet off when you went over to the truck or did you leave it on till after the eclipse?" I asked.
"I kept it on through most of the eclipse, but the latch came loose just after everything seemed to change and I guess I blacked out also. The next thing I remember is hearing them yelling for me to bring out some water for you." She replied.
"The other two took off their helmets while were still in the totality and didn't put them back on till afterward. By that point they were acting like nothing had happened. My guess is that the helmets somehow blocked the effects of what was happening long enough to allow us to remember who we were," I said thinking out loud.
"Yeah, that makes sense, but still doesn't explain this happened to us and no one else. You don't think this had anything to do with what Chatoo was saying about the aborigine myth do you?" she asked chewing on her lower lip. She brushed nervously at the mousy brown hair hanging down around her face and the beginning of tears formed in her eyes.
"Myth? What myth?"
"The one he told us over the camp fire last night. That if you look directly at the eclipse like we did when the visors stopped working then you will end up pregnant. Joe even joked that we had nothing to worry about since we were all men."
It hit like a ton of bricks. I wanted to tell her that it was just a coincidence that we all changed under the eclipse, that even though we had changed we didn't have any other surprises in store, that the reason Laurie could remember being sick this morning when the rest of us were still male and Larry didn't remember being sick at all was just another weird twist of fate.
"Laurie, the doctor just told me that I'm pregnant. I have a feeling we all are. I don't know how. I am not sure if maybe our imaging visors caused some kind of bizarre bending of the sun's rays or if Chatoo's spirits heard us laughing at them and decided to make an example. Just be glad that we are alive and still human." I tried to say as calmly as possible.
Her tears started coming down in earnest and I suddenly found myself crying as well. Those damned female hormones were already effecting my emotions. We sat there crying in each other's arms till the doctor came in and escorted her out while telling me to get some rest.
I lay back and drifted off to sleep. My dreams were filled with images of naked men and women dancing under an eclipse. As the women danced they chanted and their bellies swelled. I saw them lie down and give birth. I saw in detail their faces, the pain, the pleasure, and the joy of seeing and hearing their child for the first time. Then I saw myself dancing with them. First as Brandon then slowly my body changed and danced as Brandi. I saw my belly swell and felt the life growing inside. I felt the pain as the new life forced its way out to the waiting world, knew the joy that I had seen in their faces as they held their child for the first time.
Brandon would always be with me. The memories might fade, but I know that I will always hold some part of him inside. The spirits or whatever had caused this had done their job well. I would be a woman, a wife, a mother, and there wasn't anything I could do to stop it. Even if I wanted to.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Would you like to read about the trials and tribulations of being an unmarried, pregnant graduate student who used to be a man? Drop the author a line of encouragement.
About the Author
Hawkyn is a chubby 37 year old programmer with a penchant for writing stories and occasional delusions of grandeur. Constantly working on the "Great American Novel" and ending up with many starts and few finishes. It is the mechanisms of change that have always fascinated Hawkyn and drive the writing process. There are several of Hawkyn's stories posted on the TSA list and one in the first issue of TSAT.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Check out Hawkyn's The Journal of Squire Fitch, published in the inaugural issue of TSAT.