Bryan appeared almost immediately after I rung his doorbell. He must have been waiting nearby. He was looking up at me more excited than I’d seen him in years. The way he had to look up to me made me aware again of how he was almost a foot shorter than me. Really though it meant that he was average and I the freak, as Nathan likes to remind me. I wouldn’t be surprised if mine and Bryan’s weights were roughly the same, though.
“Okay Bryan, what was it that you wanted to show me so badly?” I asked.
“I told you, Sean, it’s a surprise” the chubby youth replied excitedly as he hurriedly urged me to follow him up the stairs to his room. The stairs made a familiar sound as he ran up it on all fours. I must gone up these stairs at least a thousand times by now.
When I got Bryan’s text message to come over I at first thought Bryan was just gonna show me some new game he bought. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d interrupted my homework with something like that. I didn’t get why he was being so secretive about it in his text. But seeing how excited he was actually got me thinking there was more going on.
“You’re gonna love this” Bryan said as he entered his room. He opened a drawer and started rummaging inside. Then a little later he gave me a look and started rummaging inside a completely different drawer instead.
I sat down on his bed and waited for him to be done. I wasn’t surprised he couldn’t find whatever it was he was looking for. Bryan’s room was always a mess and he often had trouble finding things. Part of it was school supplies and books strewn about the place. More of it was old games and empty packages of junk food. I could hardly complain too much without being hypocritical. It’s not like my own room was always tidy. But there really was no comparison between our rooms. The only time Bryan’s room seemed liveable to me was after their maid had cleaned it again, which she did roughly once every two weeks. Somehow Bryan managed to turn it into a pig sty again in a couple of days though.
“Here, this is it!” Bryan exclaimed excitedly, apparently having finally found the thing he called me over to his house for. It was some sort of display with a bunch of hands. It looked kind of like a clock or a watch or something? It was a round flat display, like a watch, but a bit larger and without the part that’s supposed to go around your wrist. It also had four hands going around instead of two, and the little signs at the edges of the display were numerous and like nothing I had ever seen.
“Uhhhh, what is it?” I replied hesitating. I mean, this looked cool, but Bryan wasn’t really the type to show off old heirlooms or something.
“Well, you know about that whole ‘Mectac’ thing right?”
Of course I knew about ‘that whole Mectac thing’, how could one not? A couple of years ago some archaeologists had discovered these new ruins of this ancient society on some island in the Pacific. The part that made the international headlines for weeks though is that some of the things those archaeologists had actual, unexplainable, powers. “Magic” people called it, though scientists were all about that it was just science we did not understand yet. There had been some weird incidents early on and then it had all been yanked off to a lab somewhere. Official line was that they were still being studied to find out how they worked, but there were obviously tons of conspiracy theories about them. But all in all life had mostly gone back to normal. It felt kind of unreal when you were reminded that they even really existed.
“Uh yes, I do believe that rings a bell” I replied sarcastically. I wasn’t always the most up to date with the news. But something like that does not pass you by unless you literally live in a shack in the woods your entire life.
“Right then”, Bryan replied, apparently too excited to either notice or care about my sarcasm, “So that’s what this thing is from!”
I looked at the device incredulously. Those artefacts were supposed to all be under the highest levels of security. How would Bryan ever get his hands on one of them? But the symbols did look like no language or symbol I’d ever seen….
“So where did you get this?”
“Got it from my dad” Bryan continued excitedly “He took it from this criminal he caught. Apparently that guy had been part of the original team that investigated those ruins, before he used it that is. Then my dad found him because of some gambling scam he had pulled.”
“Isn’t your dad like a landlord or something?”. Truth be told I wasn’t sure what Bryan’s dad did. He had a lot of money and a lot of time, though he spent little of it at home.
“No he was a cop back then!” Bryan continued, slowly starting to sound annoyed at my questions.
“When was that supposed to be? That whole discovery was only a couple of years ago, I’ve never even heard of this?”. Bryan and I had been friends all my life, so I knew his father pretty well.
“It was before he used that” Bryan said, as he pointed to it. “Dad got the idea from the guy he caught and changed a past lotto number of his into the winning answer!”
“So what, it can like…. Make you win the lottery or something?” I asked, somewhat incredulously. Was this just some stupid prank Bryan was pulling?
If it was a prank, Bryan was selling it well with his continued enthusiasm. “It can change any action you took in the past, and then like, changes the present to match what would have happened. That’s how my dad explained it. So because my dad now won a fuckload of cash when he was 21 he never went to the police academy in the first place. He actually said that he didn’t even have me before he used it. He just used it and then he suddenly had a 13 year old son.”
“Wow” I said, trying to wrap my mind around it. Part of me was still doubtful, but Bryan was not the type to pull such elaborate pranks. The most complicated thing he’d ever pulled was the old ‘’your shoelaces are loose’’ on April fools’. I wasn’t so sure about his dad though…. “But then, wouldn’t the government be looking for this?”. All those artefacts were in high security, you weren’t just allowed to get to them, and it would be all over the news if they got stolen.
“That’s the best part”, Brian said, “That guy was part of the original excavation team, but changed his past so he was no longer part of it. Nobody knows about that this thing even exists. Except me, my father and now you!”.
“I appreciate being included I suppose. So how do you know it works? That like, your dad was not pulling your leg or something?”.
Bryan was getting even more excited: “I already used it myself. Made it so that I never asked out Jennifer. Saved myself that whole debacle.” He chuckled nervously.
“Wait, you asked out Jennifer Parkins?” I replied incredulously. Jennifer was….. well her most recent boyfriend had been Caleb, who was probably the hottest guy in the entire school. He had like an actual well visible six pack but wasn’t an idiot either or anything. Bryan had sometimes talked about liking Jennifer but I never imagined he would ever actually ask her out. I don’t want to be too mean to Bryan and all, but…. that could never have gone well. “When did you do that?”
“Well” Bryan grinned “Never. That’s the whole point! Don’t you see, Sean? We could do whatever we want and when it doesn’t work out we can just reverse the clock! Think of the possibilities! I asked you to come over because you are like my best friend, and it’s less fun when nobody remembers what it was you got out from under you in the first place!”
Bryan phrased it…. somewhat more sinister then I would have put it, but this really was incredible. There were so many possibilities with something like this.
“So what are the downsides then?” I asked. There had to be some.
“It uhhh, needs three full days to recharge” answered Bryan, “and you need to let somebody touch the thing if you want somebody else to remember what changed. Anyway.” Bryan said as he shoved the device into my hands, somewhat too excitedly as I nearly dropped it “Your turn to think about what you want to change”.
“Uh, like, right now?” I said, studying the strange device, whose display started to glow slightly in a deep purple colour.
“Yes! If you don’t like the change we’ll just change it back in four days. Come on dude, surely there must be something in your life you’d wished you’d done differently!”
I mean. Obviously there were some things I could have done differently. I had my regrets. Said or done things I shouldn’t have, or not said or done things I should have. Maybe start with something simple? Just two weeks ago I had dropped dad’s favourite coffee cup. He’d gotten super mad at me, and made me do all sorts of chores to make up for it. Maybe I should just use the first use I got from this thing to make it to where I didn’t drop that glass? Or maybe….
It was A LOT longer ago then two weeks. But when I was 9 I had wanted to go to a friend’s house. I’d begged mom to go and she took me in the car. Mom had not been a bad driver, the other guy had just been drunk as all hell despite it only being the afternoon. We got in an accident. I still had a scar from it on my forehead. Mom had not been so lucky. Rationally I knew it wasn’t really my fault, but…… what if I hadn’t asked mom to go that day?
My heart started beating faster. If it updates the past to be in line with the new reality, would it bring back mom? It wasn’t something inevitable that would have happened otherwise, just being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I suddenly found myself sharing Bryan’s sense of urgency. I needed to know. “S-So, I stammered” now nervous “how do you actually use it?”
Bryan took hold of the thing with two fingers “you just touch the display, try to think about what you did, and what you should have done instead, and then it just works! Magic” he said as he Jazz handed at me, “So, what are you gonna change?”
“I uhhh, I’m going to try and bring my mother back. Avoid that whole accident” I didn’t know if it would work, but I had to at least try. I only had vague memories from my mother, I had been pretty young when she died, but I remember missing her so much.
“Oh” Bryan answered, clearly taken aback “Your mom. That’s some time ago. I was just thinking about having a better comeback for Nathan yesterday or something, but that’s uhhh. That’s a lot more ‘real’ than I was thinking about”
“Will it work?” I asked hesitantly. Please work.
“Only one way to find out!” Brian replied, having recovered some of his earlier enthusiasm.
I put my right hand on the display, that lit up in even brighter purple, while trying to remember the incident in as much detail as I could remember. Trying to make it to where instead of asking mom to take me to Ellie’s I’d just stayed home instead. As I thought about that the display glowed even more purple, the display totally obscured by the glow.
For a moment the entire world seemed to spin and get out of focus, like when a camera focuses on the wrong thing. Not just my vision, but like, all senses, if that makes sense? Then everything came into focus again. I looked back down at Bryan. Had he gotten fatter? “Did it work?” I asked, but talking felt weird and I was surprised by the sound. It sounded… higher? What?
Bryan looked back at me with wide eyes “Sean…?” he asked me, somewhat hesitatingly.
“Of course, who else would I be?” I replied, still with that weird voice, like my vocal chords wanted to do something differently, before looking further down and… boobs?
I was wearing a white shirt with a deep neckline. Normally that would have displayed my ugly chest hair, but now instead the skin there was smooth and when I looked further down there were two unmistakable mounds. I took my hand off the display, the purple glow completely gone, and instead lightly touched the right one of the two. I felt it. They were real. What the Fuck?
“I…. you said this would just change a choice I made, not change me into a fucking girl” I said angrily at Bryan. Did he know about this? Did he lie about what that device would do? Is this some weird ploy?
But Bryan looked much too confused himself for me to really think he had set up some complicated deception. Instead he was just stammering that he didn’t know what had happened.
I ignored his rambling and tried to focus instead on what had changed. Taking my hand through my hair confirmed what I had already felt. It had been close to a buzz cut before, now it was past my shoulders by a fair bit. My face… well it felt like face. I couldn’t really tell how different it was, but the skin was softer, and there was not a facial hair to be felt. Aside from the shirt I was wearing some pretty tight pants. Skinny jeans, I guess. My crotch looked flat and felt… weird. Cramped or something. Was that how girls felt down there?
“I don’t know what went wrong” Brian stammered, getting some coherency back “But… we can just change it all back four days from now, right? Just do the opposite of what you did before?” He said, hopefully.
“We need to ask your dad about this, Bryan. Maybe he knows more about how this could have gone so wrong.”
“NO!” Bryan went, too fast “We can’t tell my dad! He’ll never trust me again!”
“Wait he doesn’t know?” I asked incredulously, my voice still sounding kind of strange. Not even that feminine, but definitely higher than it had been before. Honestly I still sounded like a guy with a weird voice which raised even more questions. “I thought he’d given it to you?”
“Uhhh” Bryan replied, his face going beet-red “Not exactly”
Goddammit Bryan. “Mirror” I said curtly as I made my way to the bathroom. Bryan followed but I locked the door before he got there. He didn’t protest about it, or if he did it wasn’t loud enough to be heard through the door. I didn’t want an audience for this inspection.
The mirror revealed… well, it was me, but then a girl. My hair was the same dark blonde colour it had been, but was now much longer. I still had my old ugly big nose I got from my dad but my eyes looked.. bigger? That didn’t really make sense but maybe just…. more open? My eyelashes also seemed much longer and thicker. Am I wearing mascara? And the always present stubble was gone. Plus my ears were pierced, green little studs going through them. I wiggled them around a bit, it felt pretty weird.
Then there was the second inspection I had planned, and the main reason I had locked Bryan out. I opened the buttons on my pants. My hips seemed to be a bit wider, or my waist thinner or both. Normally I had to wear a belt to make sure they stayed at the right height but now it took some effort to pull my pants down. I don’t know if it was the hips, because my butt also seemed to be bigger than it had been before. I was wearing some kind of weird black underwear. It was very tight. It looked flat, but as I pulled it down it revealed something… familiar. Oh.
I was apparently now one of those LGBT people from the news. Dad talked about them sometimes, not in the most positive of senses, though I suppose I understood why. The whole thing always made me terribly uncomfortable. They were obviously doing something they were not supposed to.
I suppose this made sense. I was already wondering if Bryan had misunderstood how it worked, but he had seemed so sure? I didn’t really understand how it could have possibly made me into a girl, but between my voice and that thing between my legs I guess it had somehow made me… what was the term again? Transgendered I think dad called it. Or well, it had made this weird alternative version of me transgendered.
I put the underwear on again. It took three tries before it fit right and looked flat again. Then I pulled up the pants. I looked into the mirror again. Dad had said that you could always tell with transgenders but I wasn’t that sure. The girl looking back at me looked pretty good? Then again, I suppose there were some signs. The nose was too big, the jaw line was there now that I looked again. Not to mention I was about as tall as I had been before. I had been one of the tallest guys in the entire school before. Pretty sure that made me the tallest girl in the entire place now. Freakishly tall. The boobs looked good, but they were on the small side I guess? I suppose people could probably tell at a glance by my height alone and then the rest of the signs were there to confirm it.
Then, as I was looking into the mirror at my reflection I noticed something else that was different. No scar. My heart started beating faster. Had the intended part of this worked after all? I checked my pockets for my phone, but I couldn’t find the pockets. I frowned, and looked again, the pockets looked to be there, but when I put my hand over it there was no opening. What the fuck? Where these pockets just for show? Who would want fake pockets? Where was my phone then?
I opened the bathroom door. Bryan started apologizing but I cut him off and shared my findings with him instead. It really did seem like this was some sort of butterfly effect from the device which would be reversible after those supposed four days.
I still thought about where my phone could be, and went to check Bryan’s room. There was a red purse that hadn’t been there before. I guess that was mine? The room looked somewhat different besides that as well. I think there were some games that had not been there before or something? I looked back to Bryan again. He really did look a bit heavier. Had gone from ‘’chubby’’ to straight up ‘’fat’’. I wasn’t sure if he’d noticed yet, but it was kind of his just due with how he’d neglected to mention that he’d stole it from his dad. It would be fixed in four days anyways. I guess it makes sense that some things would be different that I had interacted with a lot. Bryan and I had been friends since pre-school. I guess this alternate me was a lot less good of a friend to him or something? Made it so he ate even more junk food then he already did? Or maybe in this universe we’d never picked up Judo together or something.
There was a phone in the red purse, but it was a different model than I owned. It also had some phone case with some sort of pink blue and white flag. It seemed vaguely familiar but for the life of me I couldn’t remember what country that flag was supposed to be from. I had some trouble unlocking it as my old pin, my birthday, didn’t work. Luckily it also had one of those finger scan unlock options which worked without issue. Another shock came as the he background was, well.. “my” face. The face of the new me, with some more make-up and a wide smile. Without being able to notice the height to detract from it she looked kind of nice.
I found the button for my contacts and scrolled through them, a collection of familiar and unfamiliar names scrolling by. Come on, come on.
It was there.
My finger hovered over the ‘call’ button. But I wasn’t even sure what I would say to her.
Bryan took hold of my shoulder from behind “uhh, Sean, I’m really sorry but mom and dad are coming back in an hour and I kinda need that device back. To hide it again in case dad checks if it’s still there. And uhhh… I think you’d better leave, because if dad catches on…”.
“But…” I replied hesitatingly “Where do I even go? I’m not sure if dad will recognize me like this.”Or let me in even if he does. Dad wasn’t exactly the best about transgenders, and to any outside observer that was obviously what I was now.
“Uhhh… Actually” Bryan went awkwardly “He shouldn’t recognize you any other way. We two should be the only ones who are aware anything is off. That’s how it worked before at least. Just like you didn’t remember that I asked out Jennifer before, or how the artefact became lost in the first place.”
Well uhhh… that was a weird thing to wrap my head around. Everybody would know me as transgendered right now. I had no idea how that was going to be. Was everybody going to stare at me when I walked down the street? I knew things weren’t exactly great for people like…. well people like the way I must look to outside observers I suppose.
I talked things through a little further with Bryan. It was Saturday now so Thuesday late afternoon we could reverse this. Until then I would have to not let on to anybody that there was something very wrong. Bryan’s reasoning was that it was to make sure his dad didn’t find out, but really I realized there was a much more serious risk.
If somebody found out and contacted the police that we had a Mectac artefact there was no way they would let us keep it. Not to mention there was no way they would allow us to use it to make things right first. After all, we could, from their perspective, just as well use it to make sure we weren’t found out in the first place if they let us.
Which really meant that I had to pretend that I was a girl, a transgendered girl, for four whole days. If I did not I would be stuck as one.
The most logical way to spend those four days without attracting too much attention would be to just go home. Not to mention… I needed to know if it had worked. I wanted to see mom. I…. I needed to see mom.
So we made plans to call tonight to see how things had gone at home and then I grabbed my… my purse… and made for home.
Bryan didn’t live very far from me, so I’d gone there by foot and it seemed the other ‘’me’’ had too. At least there wasn’t a bike key in that red purse or anything, though there was a spare house key. It was a key I recognized, which was good as it meant I probably lived at the same place. It had a weird keychain of a baby seal. It was kind of cute, though I would normally not be found dead with something like that.
I had been afraid that I might get stared at by everybody on the way ‘’home’’. After all I knew enough to know the world could be pretty bad for LGBT people, which I must now pretty obviously be to everybody what with my height and weird nose and stuff.
It wasn’t that bad though. I did notice some weird looks and at one point where I passed the supermarket some guys around my age that were hanging around and drinking beer (despite it being the middle of the afternoon) did straight up stare at me and then started talking between them. I wasn’t sure what they were talking about but was glad they didn’t seem to get any closer.
Then I was suddenly in my street already. It really was quite close, though I’d hoped it would take a little longer. It was just around the corner, third house on the left. I really wasn’t sure what I was going to find when I got home. I could not really imagine dad being happy with how I looked now. Maybe dad was different with mom around? I took one last breath, turned the corner.
The house was both familiar, but also definitely different. The same little gate in between two hedges. But there were a lot more flower patches in the garden. Dad had put tiles over much of the garden a couple of years ago, to make it easier to maintain I suppose, but apparently with mom this was different. There was also a little vegetable garden. I’d actually forgotten about that. But yeah, mom grew some vegetables there that she would use in her cooking. I remember how I’d help her dig up the potatoes when they were ready. That was always kind of fun.
I was standing there for a bit inspecting the garden. I was stalling for time. I really wasn’t sure what I was going to say to mom. What do you even say to a parent that has been dead for eight years?
“Hey sweetie, what are you standing around for?” a voice, an angelic voice, suddenly called for me. And there she was. Standing in the door opening. Just like she had always looked like in my memory, maybe with a couple more wrinkles. I didn’t have any words. I just walked up and hugged her as tight as I could. I cried, for the first time in years.