Skin Deep II: The Dance
Chapter 1: Sound Check
by Mark McDonald
©2002 Mark McDonald -- all rights reserved
It had been a beautiful pre-Spring day outside when he had arrived to help a friend do some homework. The birds had all been singing in tress, and even if they were manufactured birds it was still pleasant to listen to. Small buds were appearing on the trees and the tips of flowers were beginning to emerge from the soil of curbside flower boxes everywhere. The sun had been high in sky, warm and bright. One of those bright days right after a hard cold spell that make you want to just stand outside with your face up turned to soak it all in.
So how could he be dying?
His parents were rich and he was young, an athlete, good looking, popular with the women, and nearly a straight A student, science withstanding. He had everything in the world to live for. He had plans to travel to the 'Safe Zones' in Europe this summer. He had wanted to meet some of those pretty blonde headed Swedish girls. His life had only now begun to take shape.
So how could he be dying?
All he had been doing was taking a bit of a catnap, sleeping off the effects of a quick romp in the bag with that same friend.
So how in the hell could he be dying?
Because you can't breathe, that's how!
It was one cogent thought in a sea of rationalizations. Yes, the lungs didn't much care about the state of the day or condition of one's wallet, or even his travel plans. If there was no air around to process the lungs couldn't give the brain what it wanted. It's pretty much over at that point. You didn't have to be good in science to figure this one out.
He did take a second to acknowledge that he was amazed that he had lived this long. It did not seem humanly possible that one's body could withstand the pressures and tolerances he was under right now. It was as if someone had tossed him in a hyperbolic chamber and threw the switch on high. He was being crushed to death.
Thought came to him in short bursts, the only reason you haven't split open yet is because you're packed into a sausage casing.
William collapsed in a heap on the floor, nearly doing a head dive to the carpet on the way down. His forehead smashed into the carpet, which had hard wood flooring underneath installed when the building had been built almost two hundred years before. Mixed with the other agony, the bump on the head served only to startle him.
His body was completely limp now; consciousness was only a distant memory. He lay on the floor trying to answer the last question he would surely ever have. Why?
He struggled against the fabric of the thing to breath. Still he was denied breath. So that was it then, he was going to die. Why?
She had thrown something over him and then tightened it. Why?
His head had to be bleeding.
Fresh pain, sharp and penetrating, woke him from his state of dazed unconsciousness. He was not dead yet but oh, how he wished he was. Now he felt he was being ripped in half from between his legs. The pain was so intense he managed to force his mouth open to try to scream but when he did it was invaded by the ever-contracting sausage casing he was locked in. He tried to force his mouth closed again but the stuff just drove its way deep into in him. He tried to flail at his body he ripped at his encasement but to no avail. He could find no loose segment or area of slackness to grab on to. His skin felt as tight as a drum in this thing. Soon, he had expended all his energy; he couldn't even move to help himself. He started to black out
No more thoughts of 'Why?' just 'Thank you'. Let me die now... Just no more pain please. That's all I ask, no more of that horrible pain.
I'm sorry Mom. I'm sorry Dad. I bet Erin claims all my stuff...
There was coolness in the black of his unconsciousness, the distinct feeling that he was exposed to the air. He could feel goose flesh on his arms. It was not cool; hell it was cold in here. I've gone to Hell and Hell is cold. The Vikings were right. Then with a loud gasp breath filled his lungs painfully. Out of relief, this time he did pass out.
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From the corner of her room Carrie watched with bulging eyes. What the hell have I done? she thought. The thing that had lurched off her bed was not human. There was no way it could be. It fluxed in and out between William's form, some shapeless fleshy blob, and the form it would eventually take. Each time more and more of the final product was left behind.
Carrie had tried to stop it, to turn it off or remove it or what ever it was you did with these thing to reverse the process, but when she touched it, the shapeless blob had tried to claim her hand. She was only able to get it back after a brief struggle. Carrie retreated to the corner of her room at that point but she felt she wasn't far enough away from the thing she had created. One fret after another flooded her mind. This was not how she had always assumed this process would work. She saw now that it was a violent process, but what else was it? Could it be interfered with while in flux? An old VID show came to mind about a man that tried to invent a way to transport objects through space and what happened when a simple house fly got in the machine when it was tried on a human; Carrie didn't want to stick around to see the final outcome. All she could think about was a fly landing where the shoulder of that thing should be and becoming absorbed.
She tried but could not remove herself from her corner. She was transfixed on the sight of the changing William Shipley. The face was formless, only the slightest outline of what had once been William's face could be seen in the depths of flesh there. The body was becoming more and more decidedly female. Carrie could see the nicely formed breasts. This thing still had a penis but the scrotum was gone. As she was making this observation the creature's penis withdrew into its 'body' leaving a flat firm belly in its place. The lower half seemed to no longer be developing but the creature was pawing at that place as if in severe pain.
The thing fell on the floor with a crash. It hit so hard that the Carrie could feel the entire house shake. A moan came from deep within the monster, her monster. The thing suddenly turned and looked at her and she could see that it was trying to open a mouth that was either not there or covered up. It looked as if the monster was trying to eat her.
A small squeak escaped Carrie and she finally found the strength to get up and flee. She started down the hall and out of the house wanting nothing more than to run from the house, screaming for help. She was stopped only by the idea of the laws she had broken, laws of nature as well as man. No one would help her but they would most certainly arrest her, her and William and her father.
Now it was her turn to moan, and she did. She moaned with regret and anguish. "Why... God damn it William. Why couldn't you just have been a nice guy and loved me back?"
She turned back to her room but didn't move from her spot in the hall. It was quite in there now. She took a step toward her room, then another. Carrie crept down the hall inching her way back toward the door to her room. She reached for the door's entry pad, praying that William was not dead but fearing that he had strangled in that thing...
WHY? Screamed a girl from the other side of the door.
Startled, Carrie squeaked again and retreated to hide in her father's closet.
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"WHY?" William screamed, jerking to a sitting position. He seemed frozen there, dazed and glassy-eyed, oblivious to his surroundings or his condition. Gradually, almost mechanically he lay back down and was still.
William lay on the floor as his vision cleared and his lungs accepted oxygen that had just moments before been denied. What the hell had just happened to him? Had it been some kind of seizure? Maybe be had a brain tumor.
He was weak, but he felt strangely healthy. He knew one thing: he had to get out of here. He felt strong enough to get up, so with the intention of finding his clothes and getting dressed he stood.
The feeling that his world had plunged out of control happened when he felt and saw two fleshy orbs attached to his chest. William's upward momentum continued, his hands were reaching for the things on his chest, things that looked strangely like breasts, when his attention was distracted by the image of someone, a girl, a naked one at that, reflected in Carrie's dresser mirror.
Startled by presence of this girl, William gasped and stumbled backwards and sat down hard on the nightstand on the opposite side of the room. The girl that should have been behind him was not there. That is, he had not backed into her as he stumbled back; but there she was, sitting on the end table he himself was now sitting on.
Tight pains of fear pounded into his heart. He slowly surveyed the room for the girl. He began to hyperventilate as he realized that he could not find himself in the reflection or the girl in the room with him. He shut his eyes against the growing fear, his hands clutched to the lip of the table. Slowly he opened his eyes again, now no longer breathing. He held his breath and lifted his right hand to his face.
The girl did the same. A small grunt of disbelief came from him. Slowly, he brought both hands to his face. Fingers pulled and explored. The eyes of that face ever widening as the realization that he was looking out of that face became increasingly evident.
His breath came in short wheezing, panicked, bursts. His mind struggled with the image in the mirror as he got up and advanced on it. He lifted a leg, and so did the image. The face of the girl in the mirror was streaked with red where he had pulled and tugged on the soft and tender skin. He could feel the inflammation inflicted from the manhandling of flesh. His mind turned from the alien face to the even more alien body he seemed to have control over. The issue in William's mind was not how he got into this body, but more over, how was he going to get back out.
Oh my God, Where is MY body?
The thought paralyzed him. He realized he couldn't just get out of this body. When one left their body, one died. Had he switched bodies with someone? Was this girl he was looking at walking around as him? What the hell had happened to him?
"You're not making any sense." he said out loud and was horrified by the sound of it.
He leaned in close to the mirror, He winced at the pain and irritation caused from all that pulling of skin and saw the girl do the same. Under the girl's left eye, he could see and feel a small spasm, a nervous tick. "Holy shit! It's real." He whispered.
"CAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!" he screamed in a young girls voice. In the next room, hiding in the closet, Carrie could hear her creation scream out her name.
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A mistake, oh God... it was all a mistake. The person in the other room no longer sounded like William. It sounded... like a girl.
I'm sorry; I'm sorry... but make it stop screaming! She began to understand how Dr. Frankenstein must have felt. Only understanding after the deed was unretractable what an evil he had unleashed on the earth. To kill it was to consign him self a murderer. To let it live would mean to forever be a part of the monster's murderous spree, a party in the deaths of those he loved. She wanted out of the house, away from this beast but she couldn't go out there. She knew she had screwed up. William was on his own until her father got home and could figure out how to turn it off.
"CAAAAAAAAAARRRRRIIIIIIIEEEEEEEE! Oh God, PLEASE! WHERE ARE YOU?" Carrie pressed her palms to her ears to block out the cries. She shut her eyes tight and mumbled, "Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na! Shush... Make it stop! Make it stop!
"CAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE! HELP ME! Something... something's happened to me!"
The thing she had created was in the hall. She could hear fear in its voice as it cried out for her, searched for its creator. It was clearly a female, just as she had suspected from the labelling on the package. What she hadn't expected was the pain in William's voice, the terror or the vision of him forming, becoming a tangled mass of undefined flesh and then reforming into something almost human. It had been too much for her. She expected a quick transformation. She had only wanted to scare William. To somehow make him understand, to empathize with her and her pain at being screwed and then told she was being tossed aside as if there was not supposed to be any feeling between them. She only wanted him to understand her point of view.
Not this, not this wailing banshee in her house looking for her lost body.
Outside in the hall, she could her the girl shuddering chants of, "Oh God... Oh God... Someone please help me. Please." The fashion a small child might through her tears of fear.
"STOP IT! STOP IT! JUST SHUT UP!" Carrie screamed. Her cries were muffled because of the clothes in her father's closet. The same closet where she had taken the SKIN from, and where she had retreated to find some way to stop what she had started. She had found nothing, no instructions, no pill; no control that she thought might turn off the process. She realized that she had no way of removing or reversing what she had done. In her jealousy, Carrie had acted rashly. Now what else could she do but hide until her father got home to fix this for her.
"Carrie?" cried an inquiring young feminine voice from the other side of her father's locked bedroom door. She could hear the electronic latch beeping inside the master bedroom as the creature tried to get in.
"Carrie? Oh thank God." The relief in the voice was clear. "Please, you have to help me, I'm sick or something! Something's happened to me. I'm... I'm... Oh God, Carrie please, I don't know what the fuck is going on." William continued to try the door-latch as he pleaded and found it to be fast. The door wouldn't open.
"Carrie? What's going on?" asked a sweet voice.
"Go away!" said Carrie. It was barely distinguishable through two-locked doors and her Father's hanging clothes.
"What?" William asked.
"I SAID GO AWAY. I'M SORRY. I DIDN'T KNOW. I'M SO SORRY, BUT I CAN'T HELP YOU!" she shouted.
"Carrie... OPEN THE DOOR!" the creature shouted pounding on the door.
"Please... Please, go away." Carrie whispered. "I'm sorry."
The pounding stopped! Then, William screamed, "CARRIE! YOU HAVE TO HELP ME!" and started again pounding on the door again
Carrie could not stand it any longer. She rushed out of the closet, intent on running past the thing crying for help. She had a crazy idea that when she got past the creature in the hall she would be confronted by female Egor, a thing with a sweet voice but a horribly distorted body and twisted features. She slammed into the bedroom door unlocked it and open it in one fluid motion.
There it was, crouched where the floor met the wall, curled in a fetal position, weeping. Its hands were over its head, which was covered with what appeared to be golden blonde, chest length hair. This was not a mangled creature, this was not some horrible Hell spawn but a girl, a perfectly normal girl from the look of it. This sight sent Carrie in to an even deeper panic. With mutilation she could have seen that some great accident had occurred. Her mind might be able to reconcile some terrible and evil event. But this sweet girl lying helplessly on the floor was a normal human being. It contained all of William Shipley's collective knowledge and had taken his place. William was entirely gone, erased, and she had no idea of how to bring him back. She started to turn to run down the hall and out of the house. She would hide outside and wait for her father to come home and fix this mistake. When she tried however, a pitiful voice whispered from down on the floor, so sad in its tone that Carrie was frozen to the spot where she stood.
"Please, help me. I don't know what's happened to me." It said. The tone was subdued and beaten. It was the sound of a child that had all the fight taken out it and had been left to die. Carrie's heart broke. She turned but could not go to it.
"I'm sorry. William, I'm so sorry."
"What's happened to me?" The girl looked at her hands and arms, she seemed to be deliberately averting her eyes from her torso. She buried her face in her hands and shook violently. She had the appearance of a person in the throws of hypothermia. The least Carrie could do, having turned William into the naked shivering girl, was to cover her. Carrie turned and stepped back into her father's room.
Carrie guessed that William must have heard her walking away. "Where are you going?" cried the girl on the floor.
"You need to cover up." Carried shouted from within the room. She pulled a yellow blanket from the foot of her Father's bed and returned to the hall where the girl lay on the floor. "William, I'm sorry." Carrie repeated. "I didn't know... I thought. Oh hell, I was mad. What did you expect me to do?"
"Wha... Wha... what are you talking about? Sorry? What are you...",A spark of enlightenment shown in her eyes and Carrie knew that William understood that this was her fault. "You did this to me?" The girl asked in shuddering breaths of fear, "How?"
Carrie could not answer, nor could she look into the eyes of her prisoner. She bent and draped the yellow blanket over the nude figure of a girl on the floor and turned away.
"Carrie? Did you do this to me?" Still no answer, "Answer me, please. Because if you did this then you can undo it, you can get me out of this, can't you?"
All William saw was the back of Carries head shaking the answer no.
"What's that mean?" William asked getting up; as he did he gathered the blanket over his shoulder and around him. "No you didn't do this to me, or no you can't get me out?"
In a sobbing voice she said, "Yes I did that to you and no, I don't know how to reverse it."
"Why? God Damn it! Look at me." When she did not turn around William screamed, "LOOK AT ME!" Carrie spun as if she were a top. "What did you do? Is this some kind of class three hologram?"
Carrie shook her head fearfully.
"What then? WHAT!"
Carrie whispered, "It's a SKIN."
The girl in the blanket dipped her head and craned her neck forward as if to catch the words that came in below radar to avoid being seen. It looked like she was waiting for Carrie to reiterate what she had just said when Carrie saw the spark of recognition stir behind the girls lovely, innocent face.
Suddenly William's legs would no longer support his weight and the girl landed hard on her derriere. The girl's eyes winced in pain for a brief and then sat in shocked disbelief. She sat and stared at her feet. "I'm a girl. This is real. You... you changed me... genetically?"
The girl on the floor all of a sudden appeared to be having a heart attack. She had gone fitfully pale and was breathing in short raspy little breaths of a person laboring to get any oxygen at all. She was still seated on the floor where she had landed but was now bent over, braced by one hand hidden under the blanket, as if she was about to get sick. Carrie could see the girl's gag reflex working. But nothing would come up.
In a short time she seemed to settle down a bit. William's breathing returned to a more normal state and she stopped trying to retch on the floor. But she still was clearly in distress. Carrie could only imagine what William was going through, what his thoughts might be. She knew men were proud about who they were, what they were more to the fact. He was now in a very different world and no matter how you sliced it; it was a man's world. It had been that way since man showed up on the tiny little ball and it would be as long as men controlled the majority of government and the military.
Men could be many things; good and bad, but what they really were was the breed with the stomach for killing. They were the aggressors and were mentally built for such aggression. Their levels of personal competition were unparalleled by their female counter parts. Yes, there were women competitors. Many of whom could compete on the same level as most men. Overall through, out the general population of women, competitiveness was of less importance than building a relationship, or working or finding some level of security in their lives.
Men on the other hand quite often became violent in their competitions. To Carrie, it was an amazing thing to watch; even if she felt she would never understand. She would see sporting events where the frustration of loss, even a fair loss, would often result in a challenge. A baseball thrown at a batter, a check in a hockey game aimed at the head, a player slung about by his facemask while the slinger screamed at him face to face challenging a response. She had seen entire teams in a virtual free-for-all where no one could break the combatants up. But that never seemed to stop the coaches, referees and other men on the sidelines. Carrie had always believed that they were only looking for an excuse to join in the fun out there on the field. She had even seen William hit his fair share of batters for a homerun hit by the previous guy!
The overly feminine ladies rarely competed for anything other than the most desirable men. Once secured, they would go about nesting, setting up house and making the household their own. Now William was on this side of the fence, having been a member of the ruling party for most of his life he was now the ridden and not the rider. In spite of the pain she felt for what she had done, she grinned just a little bit at the idea that just maybe William would get a faint taste of his own medicine.
The sweet face changed. Encompassed in it Carrie could see, pain, frustration, fear and the one thing she never wanted to see, hate. "You changed me into A FUCKING GIRL!" It was more than Carrie could bear. She loved William, and now she might as well have killed him. What had she been thinking when she did this? This is not the reaction she wanted. What glimmer of satisfaction she may have just had was washed away in the bitter taste of William's hate for her. Why had she thought this had been a good idea?
William came over more and more since she had started to seduce him. It was a promising sign, even though he had never said he loved her, he had never really given her any indication that he was committed to her in any way, but she had hope. There had to be something there. Why else would he keep coming back?
That answer to that was now painfully obvious, she had invited this behavior as a person might unwittingly invite a vampire into one's own house before the truth of what was done was known. Next thing you know, you're dinner. Carrie had invited William to come in and feed on her. She had never let him know about her feelings for him. The justification: she wanted to give him time to tell her his feelings. As she examined that juicy little justification closer she understood that she had felt William would run off. She knew, deep down inside, that William didn't share her feelings. That he was coming back more and more because the requirement for commitment was never stated but the goodies were still dangled in front of his face just the same.
Today she had wondered about telling him. She was going to risk it. The worst case would be that he bowed out, hat in hand, and apologized and never came back. She could get over that. It would hurt, but she could get over it. She had to have more. She couldn't stand being this close to him and not having the emotional connection she desired so much, the words and the show of feeling on his behalf. It was worth the risk. She was no centerfold, no ones idea of a super model, but she was cute and just as worthy as any other girl of William.
That's when William asked her if she had heard anything about Amy Flag asking around about him. She thought at first it was a ploy to make her jealous and it thrilled her that he was starting the game and not her. But she soon realized that he was not gaming her, he was serious.
"Why should I know about something like that?" she asked, fearful of the answer he would give but unable to resist the temptation of the knowledge.
"Well, I don't know. It's just that..." He paused, draping an arm around her shoulders. She had the impulse to push him away but something in her said to bide her time, to wait until this 'piece of the puzzle was in place'.
"Derrick tells me she wants me to ask her to the senior prom. I thought that if she was serious then I just might."
Carrie tried to keep her face from showing the pain he had just inflicted with that particular sword. She knew she had been used. He might as well have just beaten her with a baseball bat. The pain would have been no different.
Vampire! Vampire! I'm being fed off of like a freaking cow!
"Don't you think she's just a bit too stuck up for you William?" She asked trying to play to his sense of masculine pride. "I mean, wasn't she going out with Jimmy Powder? That guy's nearly more popular than you, and she made a fool of the guy."
"Jimmy's a jerk," William said smugly.
Oh no... Jimmy's looking like a God compared to you right now. How I would love to cut off your dick right now and mount it on my wall.
"Say, you don't look so well." William said yawning. Then recovering from the drowsy feeling he said, "Need another injection of Doctor Williams' hot cream treatment?"
Gross! Oh God. Did you really feel anything for this guy?
"No." she said politely, "I just need to get fresh here. You relax, I'll be right back." She uncovered and forced herself to walk to the bathroom. Inside she locked the door and naked, leaned against it fighting back the tears of betrayal. She had hoped so much that her long time friend would be her lover. She had offered so much of herself, and for what? So he could get the inside scoop on if Amy Flag was sniffing around like a bitch in heat for him.
What the hell have you been doing? Be careful with that bitch in heat idea girl. The nut hasn't fallen too far from the tree here.
She sat and flushed out what William had deposited in her; she cleaned up and then paced the bathroom. She wanted revenge. She wanted him to feel as bad as she did. Why not? Hadn't William in effect raped her? Simply taken from her what she offered with no intention of claiming her as his. They say so much more about abuse of the planet; but most of that damage can be undone. When it's a human woman, and her emotions have been harvested and processed in the interest of sex as long as it's consensual sex there is no crime. Even if the expectations were not the same. Even if there had been a bill of goods not delivered. If that kind of fraud had been perpetuated for monetary gain, someone would have gone to jail. All we are talking about here are a woman's feelings. In a man's world they held little or no value. No great loss right?
Then something whispered in her ear. It was a real whisper too, not imagined, not contrived, but there as if someone was in the room with her. She spun around in fright but found no one there. It had been so sudden she didn't even clearly hear what had been said. Carrie was just about to dismiss the entire event when it happened again.
"Your father's closet!" it was a fast statement. Gone as soon as it started, but she knew that the instrument of her revenge was there. It was crystal clear. She also knew that William was asleep. She knew that as sure as she knew her own name. Still, she cracked the door and peeked out. There he was, snoring even, deep in the throws of sleep.
She crept out of the bathroom, grabbed the clothes she had shed in a moment of ill-conceived passion, and dressed as she made her way from her room to that of her father. Once there she searched the shelves of the closet and found nothing. She searched every nook and cranny of that closet and found nothing. She slumped against the doorjamb of the closet. It had all been an anger-induced delusion. The voice had been a hopeful chance at revenge. What had she really expected to find here, an F-Tazor? She had to muse, would she really have used one if she had found such a device?
Carrie forced her weight off the jamb and in doing so found a loose board under the carpet of the closet. She had no idea that any such thing had ever been wrong with the house. Her father had never complained of any such defect. Her mother had been dead so long now that she doubted that it would have been here when she was still alive.
Carrie felt about the section of floor and found that the carpet was cut around the defect. She peeled back the carpet and removed the floorboards that were underneath. There was a small void, about one foot by one foot. Stashed within it were a number of things, all packed in boxes. Perhaps this is what she was looking for?
What in the hell do you mean looking for? Are you ready to admit you're hearing voices now? The thought was almost enough to drive her from this room. She was about to put one of the boxes she had lifted out back into his hole when it slipped from her hands and spilled out on to the floor. It had been packed with cash-chips, hundreds of them. There was no telling how much money was there but one thing was sure, every dollar of it was untraceable. Her father had been hoarding money, money he didn't want anyone to know he had either.
She had to put this back before her father got home. She hurriedly scooped the chips back into the box, noticing that several had fallen down into the hole where the box had been hiding. She reached down to retrieve them and felt something soft at the bottom of the hole. Carrie dug deeper and pulled a poly-pack containing something, some kind of fabric. On the poly-pack was a label in black lettering. It read Genetic Transition Device.
Below that was stamped; Type: Human.
Below that; XX-178848-CFA16
Below that, Caution! This device to be used by compatible gender
She stroked it, caressing it like a baby. There was sudden understanding where the money had come from. Her father was dealing in contraband. This was it. She could make William understand just how she felt.
The warning. Don't forget the warning girl!
"It's just a stinking costume. I'll help him get it off when he reaches that point of understanding." She said out loud to herself
But now, now she could see that it was so much more than just a 'stinking costume'. She regretted her actions now, only after it was too late. How could she have been so dimwitted? Jealousy! Some people kill over it. He was fucking you and wanted Amy... The bastard got better than he deserved.
"NO! Stop it! STOP IT" she turned and fled the sight before her.
"Stop WHAT?" shouted William. "Carrie? Where are you going?" William cried.
"I can't stay here. I'm sorry but..."
"STOP SAYING THAT! You have to try to help me out of this."
"I..." Carrie began, William cut her off.
"You put it on." He said trying to stay calm. "Tell me how you did it."
Carrie seemed about ready to fly apart. If she was going to be any use to him at all, he was going to have to be the one that remained steady. To do this he convinced himself that he would be able to get it off in short order. He would be free in a matter of minutes; all he had to do was reverse what Carrie had done.
Carrie began to explain, William was amazed that he hadn't woken up until the thing was activated. She must have had to literally roll him about several times to fit his arms and legs into what she described as a 'body bag'.
"Then I connected it in back, at your neck and it started." She seemed to choke on the words. "It was awful. You should have seen how bad it was."
"I was there, remember?" he said flatly. He then continued with the point of his investigation. "OK, then. All you have to do is unhook it or turn it off there. You said two silver points... disconnect them."
Carrie nodded. It seemed reasonable. She didn't know why she hadn't thought of it in the first place. William bent his head forward, gripping the blanket that covered his new body. Carrie came forward, afraid to touch his skin but unable to avoid it, wanting only to help end the day mare she had created here. On first inspection, she could see no sign of the silver points, the connectors that had activated the SKIN in the first place. They simply were not visible any longer, and why should they be, she thought? The fabric that the SKIN had started out as was no longer apparent either.
"I don't see them William." She said reaching out to touch the girl's supple neck. The texture of her skin was amazing. So soft, with a dream like quality that could only be described as ideal, it was the texture that all women dreamed their skin might attain but rarely ever did. She had felt it only once or twice before in her short life. One of those occasions had been shaking hands with William's mother many years ago, back when her own mother had still been alive and their family had still been friends.
"There's nothing here William, it's smooth. There is no opening."
"You're lying!" The girl declared. "You did this to me and now you're trying to keep me like this."
"No William, I'm not."
"You're a liar!" The girl exclaimed. She began searching for herself but her search was made awkward because she had to hold the blanket in place with one hand. She searched and searched as much as she could while Carrie looked on.
Then an idea occurred to Carrie. "Maybe some place else..." she paused, "You know... I mean... you have a couple of openings."
William turned to Carrie clearly frustrated. "What are you talking about?" Carrie remained silent as slowly William began to understand. "I... I can't look there." William was aghast that Carrie would even suggest such a thing. "I won't touch that! I won't!"
"What's wrong with you? It's just a vagina. All girls have one, remember?"
"I don't have one."
Carried laughed. "I'm afraid you do. I could point it out to you if you've forgotten where they're located."
"Don't make fun of me Carrie. I swear I'll..."
"What? Piss all over yourself? Or maybe you'll kill me! Would you like to do that or beat me up? Have a cat fight here in the hall? I'm still mad at you William. You used me, and I suspect that you knew how I felt for you."
The two girls stared at each other and said nothing. One intent on getting results from the former, the former intent on getting satisfaction from the latter, when it dawned on Carrie she didn't owe William anything any more. "You know something, I'm done with you."
"What?" he said dumbfounded. "Done with me? No... Not yet you're not. You have to get me back into my body?"
"Why?" she asked.
The blonde headed girl shook her head as if to make clear the word that had just entered her ears. "What do you mean why? Because what you did to me is wrong, that's why."
"Oh... I see, so what you did to me was OK?"
"Look I don't mean to be crude, but don't make more of that than there was for me. What's wrong with coming over for a little snatch?"
Carrie's eye's popped open. "That's what I was to you, a little snatch?" She considered this for a moment, and then nodded her head with understanding. She levelled her eyes at William's bright blue orbs and asked. "So what's a little pussy between friends right?"
Uncertain how to answer, he hedged, "Ah, I guess so..."
"Well then," Carrie said cheerfully. "That's just what I gave you, a little pussy, and a couple of tits on the side. Hope you enjoy yours as much as I have mine!" she beamed at him. She felt ill at ease, talking about herself in such terms, like some sort of cheap and filthy commodity or consumable thing.
"That's not what I meant!" cried the girl.
"OK, that's exactly what I meant however. So maybe you should get dressed and wait until my dad gets home. At the risk of getting in some deep trouble when he gets home, I think you need to cool your jets as a girl for a while until you understand that you have to be careful what you wish for, or at the very least how you wish for it."
"You'll be naked when Daddy gets home. We'll have to scrounge up something for you to wear.
Carrie went to her room. "Dressed, yes I want to get dressed," said the girl behind her. She tried to follow Carrie into the room but Carrie slammed and locked the door in her face. "Hey! My clothes, please?" William pounded on the door. That panicky feeling was back, that feeling that he had lost control of the situation again.
He forced himself to calm down. Taking a deep breath, he searched his heart and found something new there -- some sympathy for Carrie and a nice hot helping of regret for him to feast upon. "I'm sorry there was more here than I ever saw. I never meant to hurt you Carrie. I didn't know how much you wanted... Fact is; I didn't bother to look."
"I know that. But you're not sorry. That's a lie. You're just glad and relieved that this isn't going to go any further. You're happy that I don't want you anymore. The only thing you're truly sorry about is the mess I've gotten you into."
"No. I deserved to be taught a lesson. As soon as I get out of this body, I'll be a changed man. That's a promise. Ah, your Dad can get me out of this, can't he?"
"Shut up William. It's too late to kiss my ass. All you had to do is show one spark of human kindness without having to be asked or told to do so and none of this would have happened."
"Well, I guess you just closed the door on me again. This isn't fair Carrie; I have to be aware that a problem exists before I can react to it. Now you're telling me you won't help me because anything I say after this is because you had to tell me what was going on? I was right; you are contriving to keep me like this just to punish me. Well, I've learned my fucking lesson. Now I want my clothes and I want to put them on my body!"
"Tough titty!" she said sweetly from the other side of the door. "I'll give you a skirt, bra, a pair of my panties and T-shirt. You can wear that for the next hour or so until my dad gets home and tells us how to deactivate that thing.
"I won't wear it! You give me back my things."
"I can't hear you William, I'm dropping your things out the bedroom window, hold on... There, now that the window is closed, what did you say dear girl?"
"Don't call me that! And I know that you didn't drop my clothes out the window." William cajoled.
"Look out the dinning room window then if you don't believe me."
William, clutching the blanket which was more than just a garment, but a shield that protected his eyes from the sight he had become, looked around and quickly and found the entrance-way to the small formal dinning area adjacent to Carrie's room. He raced to it and pushed back curtains that had blocked light from that room for many years past. There, on the cement of the alley was his shirt. Running down the street was a homeless woman. William could see the legs of his jeans flapping around the sides as she ran way. "CARRIE! Goddamn it! I can't wear your clothes. Now please!"
He went back to the hall. There at the end of the hall was a common bathroom, accessible from both the hall and Carrie's room. The door was open and William could see a small pile of clothes on the basin.
"I give Carrie. I'm sorry. I know I hurt you and you're right, I don't know how badly because I didn't care. Yes, I care now only because you've hurt me in return. I understand now. But is there really any need to humiliate me any more? Aren't we even?" He waited. On the other side of her locked door, Carrie's heart began to soften again. It was not in her nature to inflict pain; men do that. It's a man's world and they're welcome to it. Now it seemed she was doing it for the pure joy of the sport.
She listened to his plea; fully ready to get some of her father's clothes and offer them to him just try to break even on this thing. She was about to speak when William, obviously feeling he hadn't prostrated himself enough, started begging again.
"I see now how humiliated you must have been to offer so much of yourself to me and I just blew you off like you didn't matter at all. I'm sorry I didn't see more than our prior friendship and what seemed like, stupidly, a very kind and generous offer."
The door of Carrie's bedroom opened a crack. "You can stop now."
"I'd like to shake and say 'still friends?' but that's probably hoping for too much isn't it?" William asked.
"Yeah, I think so. Maybe later... much later." Carrie offered a weepy laugh at her pun. "For now lets just gets some clothes on you that will make you happier."
"Yeah! That would be great." The relief in William's eyes was almost wild. "Man, you really had me going. I really thought you were going to make me wear those ridiculous clothes."
"You know, make do the whole submissive female thing. Play house and all that."
"What are you talking about? Are you telling me that what you just said back then wasn't sincere?"
"Well, yeah. It was sincere. But only because I sincerely don't want to have to behave like a friggin' girl! I mean what if word got out that this had happened to me, that you actually got me in one of your skirts? I could never hold my head up again."
"You're ashamed to be a girl?"
"Well... I mean..."
"Because I'm not!".
"It's just the whole..."
"Yes? I'm listening."
"Carrie, I'm a guy!"
"No. You're human first. I can't believe you. You played me again, like an out of tune digital harp. What you don't understand is that I felt what I felt not because I'm a girl but because you fucked with my feelings! God I must have been an idiot to think that you would get it!"
Carrie paced the hall, arms folded tight under her breasts. Her face was set stern and hard. William was concerned but silent. He had pissed Carrie off again. She turned and quickly slammed her door and her father's bedroom door, and locked each. She then snatched the blanket off the blonde girl and ran toward the bathroom with it.
"Hey!" cried William. Carrie was down the hall and into the bathroom. William was in hot pursuit. When Carrie turned left and dashed into her bedroom and locked the door behind her it was clear to William what she intended. She had left him no choice but to sink to that next level, to put on Carrie's clothes.
"Why are you doing this?" he pulled a small towel down from the rack and tried his best to cover his nude body.
"You suck!" cried Carrie from behind the door.
"I could always go to the police with this!" it was a risky idea but he had to have control of the situation or he was going to go insane. There was no way he could remain like this much longer and not. He felt dirty. He felt subhuman. Girls and women were different from men. They were silly and generally stupid and he was not going home like this, NOT!
"Police huh?" she said. "And you're not afraid that maybe they'll take you right along with me."
William responded, "It's not you they'll want. It'll be your dad."
Yet another consideration that had failed to make Carrie's Top Ten reasons not to mess with the SKIN, she cursed herself for not thinking this though. Then the issue of all that money came to mind. She had to keep William out of that room all together. With the door locked she could play ignorant and claim not to have the code for the outside setting. She couldn't go into that room. She had been lucky so far that William hadn't made a dash for her father's closet before she managed to lock the door. Now she had to try to dissuade William from doing something rash. Like you did Carrie?
Carrie opened her door again. "That's right, he got this thing from someplace. They'll take him for trafficking in contraband. But they'll take you too; you are contraband, and what if they take you some place where they won't have to worry about setting you free?"
William's eyes opened at that idea. "Not if I told them that I was a victim here."
"You're just going to hope that they'll let you go with your first hand knowledge of these thing." A chess game of threats and fears had broken out. Who could break the other down first with a fabric of unknown possibilities, second hand rumors and out and out lies?
"They would have to, wouldn't they?" William said doubtfully.
"Not if they wanted to ensure your silence. My dad might be gone, you however, would almost certainly remain... Candy, Susan or Pam... I like Pam. You look a bit like a Pam, what do you think? Have any special names you'd like to be known as?"
"SHIT!" Cried the girl, and Carrie thought to herself, Checkmate!
"How do I know your Dad will even bother to get me out?" William whined.
"I don't think he wants any trouble. You promise to say nothing; I won't tell everyone that you let me change you into a girl to try a little lesbian sex. Wouldn't want it getting around you prefer panties to a jock. How about a little fast-pitch instead of varsity baseball?"
"You wouldn't." William said in a low whisper.
"As long as you keep silent, I could keep that quiet."
"Fine, good. No Problem. I'll keep quiet, everything gets back to normal, right?"
"Sounds reasonable to me." Carrie agreed. It still remained to be seen if this Jock-boy could keep his word without the incentive of being stuck in that body but it quieted his threats for now. That was the best she could do.
"Can we get some of your Dad's things and I'll try them on." William was confident he had been victorious.
Carrie however, turned and took the clothes off the basin and said, "I locked his door, and I can't get back in from out here. You'll have to put this stuff on until he gets home after all. It won't be that long. Here, I'll help." She clinched.
"No. Now you said..."
"We've both fucked up here. Some bigger than others, these will fit, you look to be about the same size as me, maybe bigger up top than me."
"Great." The girl said and surprised Carrie by violently snatching the pile from Carrie's hand. William looked at the clothes but didn't seem to want to get too close to them.
"They'll never get on you that way." Carrie said, "It will be OK." She took the bra from William and offered to help. "Here... slip your arms in here."
"I don't want to." William whined.
"Fine, stand in front of dad a naked woman." William's face fell. He cast the towel away and stuck out his arms.
"It's going to be fine," Carrie assured William, "Girls are supposed to wear this stuff. It's called underwear."
"I'm not a girl." William insisted in his whiny teenaged girls voice.
Carried examined the child, "Um... yes you are." She giggled.
She installed the bra, clasping it in the back and then adjusting it to cup William's plentiful breasts. "This thing is tight!"
"You're bigger than me, by about a cup size. But this will do for now. Remember, you shouldn't have to wear it long. So no whining, I have to wear one of those things every day, remember that next time you want to complain to me about something. Put the panties on." She tossed the underwear at him and he examined it. "You know how that goes on, you've taken that pair off of me more than once." He looked at Carrie with flat eyes.
"Yeah, I know how they go on." He bent and slipped in one leg then the other. He drew them up and over his waist. The clung to him everywhere, he didn't like that feeling, but it was better being covered, not great, but better.
"OK, T-shirt next. Then the skirt."
"Don't you have some pants?" William asked.
"All at the laundry. See, I can do that. I have skirts and dresses to wear. I don't have to always have pants on hand," she said and stuck her tongue out at him.
The shirt went on just like it was one of his own but it sure didn't look like one of his once it was on. It looked more like the t-shirt of Susan Justin the super model. "Here, step into this." Carrie had knelt by William's feet and was holding the skirt open. He did as requested and Carried pulled the skirt up while William held up his arms out of the way. Carrie adjusted it in back, tucked in the T-shirt and zipped it up.
Carrie then turned William around to look in the mirror. "Well, what do you think?"
What he thought he would never have said out loud. The girl that stared back at him was unbelievably beautiful; she was wearing a bright red T-shirt and a tight black short skirt. The site was unnerving. That's not me is it, because it's not fair if it is. I want to meet this girl. I want her to fall in love with me. Marry me.
A single thought came back to him. A thought that was not his. We are married dear. A shudder coursed down his back.
"What is it?" asked Carrie, she still had hold of his arm; she had felt the shudder.
"Nothing, it's just... nothing."
"You can tell me William. I would actually like to try to understand what you're experiencing."
"She's beautiful." He whispered. William looked at Carrie. He noticed for the first time that they were now eye to eye when before he had towered over her. "Hey, how's the weather down here?" he said jokingly.
"You tell me shorty." Carrie said and laughed.
"What I'm experiencing... I'm afraid of the eyes and face I'm looking out of. But... It's amazing to me that this can happen at all. How can such a technology exist? I wonder just how much a person is really changed by these things."
"I suspect all the way." Carrie said.
"That's scary. I mean, damn, you know what that means." William said fearfully.
"No tell me what you're thinking."
"That my insides have changed too." William shivered as the words came out.
Carrie paused for a second, considering something and then looked hard and fast into the eyes of the girl she created and said, "I want to do something William."
"OK, what?" he asked with genuine curiosity
Carrie didn't tell him. Instead she leaned in and kissed him on the lips. Instinct took over for William and he began to get lost in the moment, he closed his eyes and began to kiss Carrie back. Without warning, William began to feel self-conscious about who he was kissing. His eyes opened and with unexplained horror he was repulsed to see he was kissing a girl. He tried to back away but Carrie had hooked an arm around him. He peeled it off his waist and backed into the toilet and sat down hard on it, wiping his lips with his arm.
Carrie was smiling at him.
"What the hell just happened there?" he asked her.
"You didn't like that, did you?" She said.
"No I didn't; it was gross... Oh no..."
Carrie raised her eyebrows and nodded. "Heterosexual female."
"No." he stood and there in the mirror appeared the face that was attached to the head he was stuck in. He ran a hand over the cheek of that face. "You know, you could have gone all day without showing me that."
"You've changed deeper than you could imagine. In time, you might even fall for guys."
"You don't think?" William said desperately.
"You never know," she teased.
"Oh God I've got to get out of this piece of cra-" He paused and then rephrased what he was trying to say, "this body has to go. I'm going to go crazy if I stay in this much longer."
"I'm truly sorry for all of this William. If I had it to do over again, I would just have kicked you out. I hope you can forgive me."
William, for the first time in his life expressed true remorse for his actions. "I hurt a friend. That's what you are and you have been for so long. I took for granted what that meant. I lead you to believe something that was not true for my own benefit. I'm glad you didn't shoot me with an F-Tazor."
"Hummmmm... Now there's a novel idea."
"You don't really have one, do you?" William asked nervously.
"I was only kidding." Carrie admitted.
The VID in the Fenton living room chirped in quiet mode. "That's probably Daddy. Stay back here. I'm going to soften the blow for him, but I don't' want him to know what's happened until he gets here."
William said, "Hey, no problem. I'm just going to sit right here and be good."
Carrie took William's hand and squeezed. "Real soon now, everything is back to normal." William smiled the smile of relief. Carrie dashed off to the living room to answer the VID.
In the distant room, he could hear his captor talking to the jailor. "Hi Daddy!"
There was mumbling he knew to be Jason Fenton, but he could not make out what he was saying. Then Carrie said. "Yes Daddy, I can have something ready by the time you're ready to eat, but... I need your help with something first."
William heard, "Mumble mumble Princess." The word princess caused him to tense for some reason. Before he had time to analyze why he heard Carrie talking to her father again. "No Daddy, not on the phone.
"Mumble mumble mumble mumble."
"No Daddy, no one's dead. I guess no one has to be rushed to the hospital. So no... you don't have to rush home."
Doh! Tell him to rush home Carrie, please!
"Mumble mumble mumble mumble mumble mumble mumble mumble."
"Yes Daddy, I'm sure! I'm sorry I worried you. All I need is some help when you get home."
"Mumble mumble mumble."
"No Daddy," an odd pause, then a "Mumble mumble." Then, "I have a friend from school here with me." William could hear that she had been caught not being careful from her tone. She was now in cover-up mode.
"No Daddy, she's new!"
William almost broke out in wild laughter. Hot off the press! New and Improved! The fresh catch of the day! New? What a friggin' understatement!
"Yes Daddy. See you in an hour or so." Carrie said and checked the time in the VID display. 4:30. It would probably be closer to 6:00pm. Before he got home.
She disconnected and returned to the hall. William was waiting there. "Don't hurry home? Why?"
"I don't want him to worry. I got into something he had no intention of me ever finding. You want out?" William nodded. "Then it would be best if he got home safely. If he flies off the HOVWay and has an accident then you'll have to explain to your parents that they have a new daughter."
"OK, OK! I'm sorry."
"You know, that body really suits you. You could consider..."
"Ah... You're funny! 'Suits Me.' Ha... That's good. He he he! Do us all a favor, don't grow up to be a comic." William snorted.
"Just an idea. No need to get so defensive." Carrie said and smiled.
_ _ _ _ (_) _7 (_) _7 (_) _7 (_) + (_) + (_) + (_) +
Jason considered the attitude of his daughter. Something was more wrong than she was letting on. He could not help but be on the edge of panic. Just the remote chance of her finding the three SKINs he had rescued from the incinerator scared him to death. He could explain the money to some level of satisfaction he believed, but not the SKINs.
What frightened him even worse was the prospect of curiosity killed the cat. If she were to ever try one on. If she were to ever try on the wrong one." He shuddered. There was one SKIN there he could not sell. No matter how low the price. It was tough getting rid of what was known as a 'One-Way-Ticket'. It had no patch code Transmitter. It could not be reprogrammed to accept information from one. He knew one thing from the Ident; It had been programmed for one person, never to be removed. As far as he could tell only three had ever been made like that. One was in use; two were lost, officially of course. One had been in a shipment of 60,000 that vanished in a Rouston harbor side warehouse bound for Washington for destruction. One was slated for destruction two years ago when it was discovered in storage here at the facility. The one in use was classified. No further information had been available.
Jason decided it was time to get rid of all of them, to take his money and go. He would start making the plans now. In a month they would make a very normal move. He had pressed his luck far enough. It was time to get out.
He had risked more than just his freedom; more than having no one to take care of Carrie if they caught him. He had been a horrible father to put his own daughter in such an environment, to put her in possible contact with such a dangerous technology.
Back when Becky had been alive, he had wanted her to have the things she wanted. It had broken his heart each time he watched her shop or stop in front of something she wanted to have but couldn't afford to buy. It made him feel guilty. His wife could have picked any man in Rouston as her mate. She amazingly chose a scraggly computer programmer employed with a covert government agency. Jason had been young, shy, and badly underpaid. But Becky loved him. She was careful to never complain about the lack of money and Becky was a wonder at making a home from his meager income.
The hurt in her eyes was more than he could handle. An opportunity presented itself. It was all he needed. He met a fellow from New-Richmond in a Water-ale bar one night before going home to Becky. This man had been drunk. He seemed to have a lot of cash and his freedom with it had loosened the caps of a few bottles of finer liquor the bar keep had stashed for better paying customers.
Jason, a man with the gift of conversation, cut jokes with the man and managed to make a friend of him. In return, James Hatcher bought Jason a few drinks. Not used to the powerful alcohol, it had not taken long for Jason to start talking about his own troubles. James listened as though the two had been friends for years. When Jason was done, James told him that he could help with his problems. Had Jason ever heard of SKINs? He had asked.
Jason panicked; he felt it was a pinch. Shop Cops did this all the time. Not only to catch people from the facility trying to steal the technology but to see if facility employees would turn in people seeking information on them as well.
Jason stayed and listed, intent on turning the man in to authorities. He was convinced he was an SC. He didn't want to go to jail for not turning him in. If he wasn't, however, he didn't want to feel guilty for getting someone in trouble for just trying to get along.
Get a long; if this guy infiltrates government offices using these things then who will be hurting?
As the evening wore on, Jason was told about James family and the circumstances were very similar.
"What would I have to do, If I did anything?" Jason had asked.
"Just make deliveries where I can't or when I can't."
"So you have connections to get these... " Jason had trailed off. He did not want to say the word out loud here in the bar.
"No, I get them where I can; and then I have to mark them up high because they are so expensive for me to get my hands on in the first place."
Jason considered a moment of sheer greed and he took a risk, he could always play it back on this guy, document it as though he were trying to trap this guy in an encrypted VID file documenting dates. If it looked like things were closing in, he could use the documentation to turn him in and get himself off the hook.
"What if I could get them a lot cheaper."
James seemed to completely sober. "Huh? Cheaper? How much cheaper?"
"Free!" Jason whispered.
"You're an SC! Fuck you!" the man said and started to get up to run
Jason grabbed his arm suddenly feeling sure of himself. "No... Just a guy who would like to give his wife some of the nicer things in life."
"Yeah, how much would you split with me?"
"Fifty-percent profit on a free SKIN would be 100% more than I make now. Could we go fifty-fifty? I could do fifty-fifty easily."
"And I don't do any drops?" Jason added.
"Sure! Hell yeah. Need to keep a low profile you do. I have no problem with that." James said.
Jason nodded. "OK, now what's fifty percent of a... you know?"
"Fifty thousand and up to almost five-hundred thousand for special orders." James said.
Jason fell off his stool. He couldn't imagine ever having that much money. He was nervous again. He was dealing in something that was outside of his experience, the 'Black Market'.
James helped him back up, looking around the bar. "You should try to keep things more subdued. You know, don't try to attract attention like that." James said nervously.
"Yeah, I'll try to remember that." Jason replied as he rolled his eyes.
The next day Jason went to the incinerator and personally disposed of sixteen young male and female SKINs all under the age of twenty-five; orders that would not be fulfilled were destroyed. These however didn't make it into the oven. They were packed carefully in compression pack, which looked like the empty sacks used for SKINs marked for destruction, and walked right past the guards.
That night he met with James to deliver the prize. "Jesus! There are... fourteen, fifteen, sixteen... six Caucasian and ten exotic. Holy shit my friend, it must be destiny we met." James turned to shake his hand. He pumped it so hard that Jason felt it might just fall off.
"Ah, when can I get some payment? I'd kind of like to take my wife out to dinner if I could."
"Oh hell yeah, I don't know what these will bring of course. You'll get most of it when I actually sell these but that won't take long. But here..." Hatcher dug into a bag on the front seat. "I have about thirty-thousand I can part with right now."
Jason started to cough and choke as James Hatcher dropped this bag of cash chips in his lap. "Thir... Thirty" *Cough* "Thirty-thousand!" *Cough* Tears streamed from his eyes with the force of the coughs. "God!" he said at last in a raspy voice. "You really want to part with all of this?"
"You earned it and much more my friend. They can't trace these can they?"
"Nope, they are no longer in the data base. They are officially destroyed." Jason assured him.
"You take your lady out, treat her the way you want, say you got a freakin' bonus or something. Don't be too obvious but have fun. That won't attract too much attention. I'll get back with you in a couple of days with say... two hundred and fifty plus to start with. How's that sound?"
"You won't stand me up will you?"
"I want you to keep this stuff coming. I have to keep you happy. I don't want to settle for just these. So no, I won't stand you up. I'll meet you in the bar this Thursday, OK?"
"Thank you my new best friend."
Life had gotten much better for Becky. Jason was very happy with the smiles she gave him as presents each day. She had never had the luxury of knowing much of what he did since it was classified work to begin with so keeping the secret was easy.
But Becky was gone now. He had gotten over it in the last six years. Well, almost anyway. He still missed her horribly; but was now very wealthy since he had no one to spend that money on. He had a massed a fortune of almost seventeen million dollars in cash chips alone.
Yes, It was time to stop. It was time to get his daughter out of danger.
He could not escape the feeling that it was already too late for that though. He was almost ready to bolt to his house and see what it was his daughter was hiding from him when the Program Director, Terrance Michales came through his door.
"Jason my friend, could I see you about some special modifications I would like made to the Houston Ave 'Black board' configuration."
"Terrance, you know that I shouldn't be doing this without approval from upstairs."
The two had been on a first name basis since Becky had died. Jason found out about a year after Becky had died that Terrance too had lost a wife, Michales kept no holograms of his wife that he knew of, no DIGASTILS either.
"I won't tell if you won't, besides, are they not happy when I give them new and glorious discoveries?" Michales beamed at Jason.
"Yeah, I guess they are. You are the Boy Wonder." Jason told Terrence.
"Thank you my friend, Perhaps you can join me for dinner to night, I'm going to The Red Fish tonight. My treat."
Jason relaxed a bit. "Thanks but my daughter is preparing dinner for me tonight."
"Ah, the wildly beautiful Carrie Fenton. Having to beat the boys off with a stick I suppose." Michales joked as he walked down the hall with his friend. Eventually Jason made the changes Michales wanted, it took less than thirty-five minutes. He left Michales to his dinner plans and flew home.
_ _ _ _ (_) _7 (_) _7 (_) _7 (_) + (_) + (_) + (_) +
Carrie hopped up off the floor of her bedroom where William and she had sitting cross-legged and talking. William was calm enough to identify that he no longer felt as aggressive as he had in the past. In fact once you got him going, Carrie found it hard to get a word in edgewise. Ordinarily, William was not a great conversationalist, but the complete 180° that he seemed to have taken here was annoying to Carrie.
There were topics that she could not relate to but was fascinated with. William was astounded how his center of gravity had been affected. It took thought to keep from feeling off balance when he walked. After a short period of motion he got the hang of it and moved freely, but after moments of being still, he once again had to concentrate or vertigo would overtake him for just a moment or two. This effect was not height induced but balance related.
William found that he walked differently. He tried locomotion as he was used to it but found that the mechanics of this body employed the hips more for forward mobility than he felt he had as a male.
"Maybe that's where the swish comes from." Carrie said.
"Swish?" William said confused.
"You know... " She stood and swayed her hips back and forth in an exaggerated motion as she walked away from him across her bed room. Then turned and said, "The Swish! I never thought about it before, I don't know what it feels like to walk as a guy."
"I'm sure that's what it is. My point is I can't stop it. It feels funny."
"You'll get used to it." Carrie said.
"I don't want to. I plan to have dinner with my family tonight as William Shipley."
"Oh yeah. You know, I enjoyed this so, I kind of forgot you weren't really a girl." Carrie blushed.
William bent his head he didn't want Carrie to see how scared he became at that remark. In the course of his conversation during the last hour he had been trying to work up some amorous feelings for Carrie. He had been disturbed at Carries little impromptu experiment. There was no feeling for Carrie at all. Nothing. He expected the stir in his belly at the prospect of getting a little, but the idea of laying down with Carrie made him a little nervous, he found that the nervousness went away when he didn't think of the idea in a sexual context. Now, in the matter of just two hours, she SAW him as a girl. He was being swallowed alive.
Lights flashed from the top of the windowsill and drifted down and bathed the brownstone where the Fenton's lived in stark white light. The Fenton HOV drifted down to it's landing site and the head lights cascaded slowly down the face of the building.
"That's him! It's all but over now William. Let me break the news to him OK?"
"Yeah. Want me to wait here?" William asked.
"I think that's best. He's going to be mad. Just humble yourself and don't get defensive, please."
"I have no pride left Carrie. I just want to go home as me." William insisted.
Carrie turned and walked out the bedroom door. William started to shake. He stood to practice in the mirror any lines he might say to Mr. Fenton. There she was again. God, so beautiful, but even that idea was uncomfortable for him. It felt like he was thinking that way about himself. Like he wanted himself. It made him feel sick.
"OK," the girl in the mirror exhaled. "Mr. Fenton..." What? What are you going to say? I've been having sex with your daughter? Good, maybe you can tell him that the two of you have gotten into his liquor cabinet too; just for good measure.
The girl exhaled. "Just let me out of this. That's all I want and I promise, I'll never show my face around here again."
There was some heated conversation outside in the direction of the living room, all of it conveyed in a male voice. There were acute pauses where he could hear and feel feet stomping about in what was clearly frustration.
"Daddy?" he would hear.
"Let me think." He shouted. "Just let me think for a minute."
He has to think. That doesn't sound good. If he knows how to free me then why does he have to think?
'Pssst!' A voice in his head said. He turned in the direction his brain told him the voice came from. 'Hello my husband' the girl in the mirror seemed to actually be talking. 'I promise to have to hold,'
"Stop!" he said in the same voice as the girl in the mirror. He had the feeling that if she were allowed to finish this insane vow he would never break her grip on him.
'For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.'
"Stop it!" He said again, he was out of breath and unable to pull any air into his lungs. Somehow, he knew this was more than a hallucination.
'As long as I live, forever and ever, amen.'
The image in the mirror changed. In the background he could hear both Mr. Fenton and Carrie crying about something that no longer held importance to him. There was a clearing with Knights in armor and spectators waiting for the blood sport of the day, a joust a sacrifice.
"Beth!" a voice said. "Give me your hand." And as if by magic, a woman's hand materialized from the mirror. William knew that he was the 'Beth' the voice wanted. It felt as if that should be his name. In his head he was wildly trying to resist the temptation to respond to that voice, that name.
"No!" it was a whispered response, full of fear. "I'm not..." but she couldn't say it. She could not deny the identity that she KNEW was hers.
Around her all sound except from men in armor and the throng of the crowds that lined both sides of the arena area. She was being drawn through the mirror. A story occurred to her, a book... that hadn't been written back when Knights fought for the honor of the victory and the favor of a young ladies heart, Alice Through the Looking Glass. I don't want to be Alice, her mind screamed.
"Your time is at hand," that voice was saying. She looked around but Carrie's room was entirely gone. She was in the place of her dreams. She wore a long flowing gown. It was cut low, but hid her breasts behind a hard, flat front. It was very uncomfortable to wear. This dress hurt her chest terribly; it was way too tight in the waist. The thing seemed to be cutting off her circulation and breath.
"You!" she said turning to the girl that had drawn her here against her will. She fiddled with the dress but could not loosen it. It seemed to be held together behind her by some sort of rope or string or ties or some such nonsense. "I remember you. You were in my dream when... when... Oh my God, It's happened hasn't it. You aren't going to let me go, are you?"
"You gave your consent." The girl said flatly. "You wanted to save her!" The girl, 'Erin, that's her name, just like my sister. Isn't that funny?' the girl pointed to the far end of the Joust course and there behind a night of extraordinary height and size was a cart with large wooden wheels. Mounted to it was a cage, firmly locked and with in that cage was the figure of her mother.
"MOM!" she screamed.
"She can not hear you, not yet. Your part in this is not done."
"Will I be freed from this if I cooperate?" Beth asked.
"Princess, your commitment is a special one. But you must run now, they are coming for you. They come to prevent the act that will free your Queen from the prison she must bear without the King. Nothing is fixed the puzzle is yet undone. Now RUN!" cried the sweet young lady that had named her Beth.
The girl that still thought of her self as Beth looked about with no recollection of her surroundings; the invading voice was an unnatural element in the world where she had come from. Still she tried to respond to the voice it had a ring of familiarity to it.
"Wha.. What?" the girl said sweetly. To Carrie something had happened. A piece of William seemed to be missing. This girl, the one they stood before now seemed... femininely sweet now, less masculine than she had been when Carrie's father had first arrived.
"William Shipley? Is that you William?" the girl blinked her eyes and recognition seemed to slowly filter in. But a huge piece William was still clearly gone.
"Me? Who are you talking to?"
Confusion flooded Jason's face. He looked at his daughter and she just shrugged. "He's gone insane." Jason declared.
"He who?" asked the blonde.
"You, you're William Shipley aren't you?"
"I don't think so. I think my name is..." the girl's tormented face struggled to find the name she knew was hers. "I think it was Beth."
Carrie approached William as Jason rubbed his forehead. It looked to the two teens as if his head may explode from some unknown pressure from within. He groaned and squeezed his temples.
"William... Do you remember me?" Carrie asked.
The girl blinked her eyes dreamily. The vacant, glassy look faded slowly and recognition came to her features. "Mr. Fenton?" The sound of relief flooded her voice. "Oh good." He looked to his side and saw Carrie standing there.
"I'm ready to get out of this thing. What do I need to do?"
"William, you scared me. I thought you'd lost it." Carrie whispered.
Jason started to stall. "We have to do a few things. Most of them will be down at the lab. I need to pack a few things and pull the HOV around back. You, William can meet me out back and I'll take you to the lab and we'll get that thing off you."
William smiled, he looked over at Carrie expecting the same reaction but she was stony and stoic. She expressed little emotion. "Carrie," her father was saying. "Will you help me?"
"Sure Dad." She said but did not move from her place next to William. Jason moved to walk out the door and halted.
"Come on. I need your help now, not in five minutes." He grumbled nervously.
He turned again and Carrie whispered, "Ask to go to the bathroom and get out of here William. Use the window."
"What? I can't leave like this. Your Dad have to help get me out of this body."
"You don't understand." Carrie said shaking her head. "Dad is acting funny, why do you think it took us an hour to get back here."
"What are you talking about, you were only gone a second." William insisted.
"You spaced out or something. You didn't even know your name when we came back here. Dad is acting scared, like he doesn't know what to do. Then suddenly, he got this idea. He won't tell me what it is. I don't know what he's going to do but I'm scared.
Jason had vanished around the corner of the door out into the hallway and presumably had forgotten about needing Carries help. Without warning he popped his head back around the corner making the girls jump in fright. "What are you two girls talking about?"
Both girls shouted out loud, "Shit!"
"Crap! You scared us Mr. Fenton."
"I'm sorry ladies, I didn't mean to. I just thought someone was following me. When I looked around no one was there." He came back into the room, his hand seemingly tucked into the back of his pants.
"I'm not a girl Mr. Fenton. Please, that kind of scares me."
"You won't be long, that's a certainly." He said with agitation in his voice. It was a sign that women everywhere understood. It was the sound of male aggressiveness. To William, it didn't send up the same warning flares as it did for Carrie. It meant that trouble was coming.
William saw the bleached white color of the rope in Mr. Fenton's hand behind his back. "Oh God! Carrie, he's got a rope!"
"What?" Carrie cried.
Before Carrie could ask her father why he had a rope, William tried to bully his way past Mr. Fenton but he was too big and strong for William and he grabbed the girl, spun her around and in two quick movements, withdrew a rope from his belt behind him, twisted her arms around behind her and made them fast. He then shoved William into Carries bathroom and tied the rope to a pipe; a part of the original plumbing from when the building was built that ran along an exterior wall.
"DADDY, MY GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
Concern replaced the angry look on Jason's face; "I don't really have any choice now, do I?"
"No." Cried William. "NO! PLEASE..." He twisted his body about trying to get free but the ropes were fast.
"I'm sorry William, I'm sorry it has to be this way." Jason said. He was clearly in distress.
William grunted and groaned and the ropes that bound his hands tightened more "WAIT! What do you mean 'has to be this way?' OH GOD! CARRIE, MR. FENTON... PLEASE, I WON'T TELL ANYONE! I PROMISE."
"DADDY, You can't kill her, Please don't do this!"
"I said to shut up Carrie, Go pack. This is going to happen, nothing can stop it now."
"Mr. Fenton... Please. I won't tell anyone. Just let me go." William continued to plead crying from the fear building in his heart.
Jason Fenton turned back to William. He spoke in sympatric but firm tones. "William, if I let you go then everyone will find out. Don't you see that?"
"No, no I don't." it was a lie. She understood that if she went home like this then her parents would find out; but she was living one minute to the next here. She was only trying to buy enough time to make that next sale. "This is not happening. This is not happening." William chanted over and over again.
Jason turned to see his daughter in a stricken pose, knuckles frozen to her mouth, all the color drained from her face and her eyes wide in stark terror. "Carrie!" he said firmly. When she didn't answer him he grabbed her wrist and jerked her around until she was looking at him dead in the face. "Go pack, I'll go get the HOV."
"I said I was sorry! God... I'm sorry. But I don't want to die. I'll do anything! ANYTHING! PLEASE. Mr. Fenton..." William was now crying freely. "Don't KILL ME!"
He tried to ignore the cries of the young girl that was now his captive. He was ready to retch. It was not in his nature to be so brutal and it was making him sick. He had decided however, that this was the only way out of this mess. He should have destroyed that damn skin a long time ago, but he figured, who would use it? Even that wasn't totally true. He had hope of selling this one to some demented soul that wanted the aspect of not being able to reverse the process. It was a risk but his greed had been in control of his decision-making processes for quite a while now.
Carrie just stood there, blinking at her father.
Fenton checked the ropes grip on the pipe. "That will hold you until I can bring the HOV around." Jason left, slamming the door and locking it from the outside.
William looked around the room for something, anything he could use as a weapon or to free himself. Once free of the rope he could address getting out of Carrie's house and then out of this SKIN.
He jerked hard on the ropes and they bit into his tender wrists. The tenderness of his skin was going to be a disadvantage here. He was also clearly no longer an athlete. He wasn't sure on how these things got their properties, the subject was taboo in his house and his friends were not exactly experts in any field. His guess was that some sort of genetic programming took place and each SKIN was designed to come out a certain way. This girl had been designed to be dainty and feminine to a fault.
He jerked the rope again trying to ignore the pain the spiny rope caused in his wrists. There was a rattle and a clank and the pipe slipped into the floor about three inches. Wild with hope, William grabbed the pipe and forced the pipe into the floor. Little by little the pipe, about an inch in diameter, sunk into the flooring of the flat. It finally stopped with maybe four or five feet of pipe protruding from floor. He tried and tried but the pipe had hit something hard beneath the floor and he simply lacked the physical strength to force the pipe any further into the floor. He had to shove the knot up and over the top of the pipe now.
To his horror he found that with his arms tied behind his back, he could not raise the knot high enough to get it past the lip of the pipe. He looked around for something to give him a clue and found the lip of the bathtub. It was a good two feet high and close enough to the pipe that he might be able to pull the knot over the pipe.
As he braced one foot against the pipe to prevent it from moving upward when pulled, he caught an image in the mirror. A beautiful girl, dressed in tight clothes, generous body features and a sweet face staring back at him. The sweet face he had seen before was now a terror stricken mask of a victim. It crossed his mind that he had been subdued very easily. Her face was red, her eyes were puffy from crying, and her hair was tangled a mess. The skirt she wore was pushed up nearly to her hips and her underwear showed from underneath. He could almost picture her twisted, lifeless body showing up on the VIDNews all over town, in everyone's homes for the evening dinner entertainment. Her skirt rucked up over her hips, her panties showing, and her arms bound. William shivered and worked harder to get his hands free of their bonds.
He shook his head and dispersed the nightmarish vision. He hoisted himself up on one foot and gave a mighty jerk on the rope. At first he felt it catch on the threads on the end of the pipe and then it gave free. He lurched forward with the sudden freedom and with his hands bound behind him crashed, forehead first, into the tiled wall of the tub.
"Ouch!" His head was pressed against the cold, slippery tiles trying to prevent slipping into the tub until he could get his balance. He stepped gingerly into the tub and then out again. You have to hurry. He reminded himself. There was nothing to cut the ropes with and even if there had been he doubted he could do it quickly with his hands tied behind his back. He remembered a maneuver that he had seen but never practiced. He sat on the floor and moved his hand down to his butt. He then rolled on to his back and pulled his hands under his behind and then threaded one leg and then the next through his looped arms.
"It worked!" he squealed. "God damned, I can't believe it worked." He stood with hands in front of him in amazement. There was that reflection again, only now they were teammates. The girl in the mirror smiled at him. "Good going girlfriend!" The girl in the mirror seemed pleased with the complement, William allowed her to lip the words 'Same to ya!"
Now William could work the noose free on his wrists with his teeth. It was hard work and took several seconds but it finally loosened. Good thing he didn't think to dampen this knot, I would never have gotten it loose.
On the far wall was a small window. As William he would never have pushed his way through it, but as this girl, it might be tight, but he thought he could get this body through the window. He had a heart racing moment when the window with its painted seams wouldn't budge and then it broke free and opened in a flash.
There was a beeping at the door and he knew that Mr. Fenton had returned to claim him. He had no time to figure out the best way to exit the window, which was high over an alley, maybe eight feet from the ground outside.
"Hey! No you don't." William turned to see Mr. Fenton racing towards him.
"Crap!" shouted the girl as she dove out the window. William felt a hand on his foot as he glided out the window, it slid off the slender bare foot and William was headed toward the hard and ancient black top that paved the alley. Quickly he tucked his head, rolled with his hands and landed in an unhurt heap against one wall of the alley on the opposite side of the Fenton Brownstone.
"You get back here!" wailed Fenton.
"Oh yeah! Solid career move, I'll be right in, meet me at the door!" said William and then took off out of the alley.
From the alley he could hear Mr. Fenton scream one word.
William dashed out into the street. Motorized land vehicles had been outlawed almost everywhere with a few exceptions for the last fifteen years. There were no cars to worry about. However there was still twilight in the sky, and the streets were populated with the residences of the area walking home or strolling to dinner, couples here and there, lone boys, men, women and girls. He felt out of place and out of balance.
He walked cautiously out into the dying light. He had to put some distance between Carrie's house and himself, but now he was getting scared all over again. Everything on his body felt strange when it moved. He saw that people were looking at him. They know. They all know.
He stood on the edge of Roth Park and asked himself one simple question, "What now?" The answer to that question struck a terrible chord. Home.