2. Severe
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Content warning: death

It was like all my senses flickered or something. For a fraction of a second there was no light, no sound, no sensation of any kind. Then everything was back to normal. I was standing there in the intersection feeling dazed and confused. I was clutching that medallion tight in my hand, and my hands were shaking slightly.

I was sure I was a goner, that shithead in the SUV wasn't looking where he was going and he was coming right at me.

"Somebody call an ambulance!"

That came from my left, and I turned to look. The SUV was stopped in the middle of the intersection and there were people milling around. I realized he must have hit someone else after he missed me. Though I wasn't actually sure how he managed to miss me. I could have sworn he was like two meters from me, and he was probably doing sixty or seventy kilometers an hour.

Then I remembered the medallion, and for a moment I thought maybe it was magic after all. I looked down at it in my hand, and frowned. There were two things different about it.

The black corrosion had cleaned up a bit, I could see some brighter bits of metal shining through. And it was smeared with something red and sticky that looked a lot like blood.

My hand shook a little more as the scene to my left got louder. I glanced over and realized there was an ambulance there now, and police had the whole intersection blocked off in all directions.

That caught me by surprise, I had no idea how they did that so fast. I didn't remember hearing sirens or anything. I still hadn't moved from where I was standing, and I was inside the blocked-off area. Cops were walking around past me, and one of them was taking pictures of the scene with me standing right in his way, but nobody said a word to me or tried to move me clear.

I started to feel a cold sense of dread in the pit of my stomach, but I couldn't bring myself to walk over there to see what was going on. I was directly behind the SUV and from here I couldn't see who or what it hit.

It didn't make any sense, but I was starting to get the feeling maybe what it hit was me.

As I watched, I saw the ambulance guys move the stretcher away from the front of the SUV. There was someone on the stretcher but I couldn't see who it was, the person's face was hidden under a sheet. The shoes were familiar though. I stared at the beat-up black sneakers with the purple laces, and noticed the right lace was untied. I continued watching as the body was loaded into the back of the ambulance then the door closed.

Finally I looked down at my own beat-up black sneakers. The purple lace on the right shoe was untied.

"Fuck," I sighed. "This isn't fucking happening."

My attention returned to the medallion in my hand once more. It was still sort of sticky with blood, but it looked brighter and cleaner than before. The black corrosion was almost all gone now, and the metal looked like brass or bronze. It wasn't bright and shiny, but it had that dull sort of finish that you saw on old stuff. Or new stuff that was supposed to look old.

The markings around the edge were clearly visible now, but I still couldn't read them. They were definitely some kind of strange text, I was sure of that. And in the middle, next to the off-centre gem was a sort of complex squiggly line.

"This is all your fault," I stated to the metal disc in my hand. "If I wasn't staring at you I'd have seen that asshole coming in the SUV, and wouldn't have gotten killed."

For whatever reason I wasn't scared or sad or panicking or anything. I was angry at the asshole who ran me over, and at myself for not paying more attention as I crossed the road. I wasn't freaking out though, and I was kind of curious what was supposed to happen next.

Then a silly thought crossed my mind and I couldn't help smiling as I said to myself, "This is the part where I get reincarnated as a cute girl, right? Any minute now I'm going to wake up and discover I'm a girl living in some kind of fantasy world with swords and sorcery and stuff."

"Not exactly," replied a woman's voice from right behind me.

"Shit!" I gasped and spun around.

Standing a meter behind me was a tall attractive woman, and unlike everybody else around here she was looking right at me.

She must have been nearly six feet tall, and she looked slim but strong and athletic. Her black hair was pulled back into a tight bun. Her eyes were dark, her skin was tanned. Her make-up sort of gave her a severe, stern look. Or maybe that was just the expression on her face. She had deep red lipstick and some blush accentuated her cheekbones.

She was wearing a long flowing black robe or cloak or something that hid most of her features. She looked out of place standing in the middle of the street in the middle of an accident investigation on a June Saturday afternoon, but she had a sort of timeless look to her that I thought would probably fit in anywhere else. She seemed sort of posh, I could imagine her at a fancy dinner party in the city. Or at a fancy ball in some castle a hundred years ago. Or as the evil queen overseeing some hapless realm a thousand years ago.

Her eyes flicked up and down over me then she stated, "I'm not much for small-talk so I'll get to the point. You're dead. Your blood has awoken me from my slumber, and I'm prepared to make you an offer. Accept my terms and I'll restore your life and give you what you want. Or refuse me and oblivion awaits you."

I looked down once more at the medallion in my hand as the woman's words sank in. My mind was racing slightly. I had no idea who she was or what was going to happen next, but I liked the idea of not being dead. And if she'd give me what I wanted, then I could help my mom out.

That thought caused my stomach to clench. My mom. Shit. Someone would probably be trying to contact her soon. Cops or whatever, and this would absolutely kill her. I couldn't let that happen.

I looked at her and asked "Uh, what are your terms?"

The woman replied, "Help me achieve my goals, and I'll help you achieve yours. Tit-for-tat. A partnership. Cooperation."

In retrospect there were at least a dozen more questions I should have asked. Like what were her goals? What kind of partnership? Or even just who she was. I also should have asked for some details about the 'restore your life' part of her offer, because without specifics there was an awful lot of leeway in how she could deliver on that.

In my defence though, it was my first time being dead and I was a little uptight about it. And worrying about my mom made me even more anxious.

So instead of asking all the smart questions, what I actually said was "Uh, ok. Yeah."

She smiled, "Put on my amulet and we'll get started."

I looked down at the medallion in my hand, and realized it now had a length of black cord attached to it, like a necklace.

This is the part where I really should have stopped and asked more questions, but like I said, anxious, uptight, dead, you get the idea. I slipped the thing over my head and tucked the medallion under my shirt so it settled against my chest.

"Ok now what?" I asked, right before everything went black.

• • • • •

I woke with a start, then sighed and settled back in my bed. That was the most weird-ass fucked-up dream I'd ever had.

As I lay there I noticed it was dark out, and I felt a little confused about the time. I glanced at the clock by my bed and frowned. It was ten minutes to one, Sunday morning. My mom would be home from work soon.

Did I sleep the whole day away? I was supposed to be at Jason's place by six o'clock Saturday night. Why didn't he call? Or did he call and I slept through it? Or did I go, then came back home and went to bed and somehow forgot?

I reached over to my bedside table and groped around for my phone but it wasn't there. That meant I probably left it on my desk next to the computer.

With a sigh I pulled the blanket aside and sat up, and a bunch of strange new sensations hit me all at once.

I could feel long hair brushing against my bare back. That medallion was still around my neck, and as I sat up it slipped down and felt really cold as it wound up between my boobs. And I had boobs.

"What the fuck?!" I yelped. Then I yelped again, "My voice?!"

My heart was racing as got to my feet and ran for the bathroom to check the mirror. Everything felt different. My legs, my hips, the way I moved, the way things jiggled, the hair brushing against my back and shoulders.

I threw open the bathroom door and tried to hit the light-switch but it wasn't where it should be. It took me two more tries fumbling in the dark before I found the damn switch. It was higher up than I remembered.

Finally the light came on and I blinked a few times as my eyes adjusted.

Staring wide-eyed back at me in the mirror was a smoking hot brunette.

Her hair was black like coal, but it shone a little under the bright bathroom lights. It was long and straight and reached halfway down her back. Her skin was tanned, almost dusky-looking. The tone reminded me of someone with fair skin standing in shadows on a warm summer day. Her eyes were a deep dark green, like the green of the canopy when you were in a really dense part of a forest looking up and trying to find some sky. They even sparkled slightly like little flickers of sunlight peeking through the trees.

Her wide, full lips were a deep dark red tone, and they glistened slightly like starlight reflecting off a pool of freshly-spilled blood. Her nose was petite and kind of cute. Her face was slightly oval-shaped, her cheekbones were high but not too noticeable.

She had narrow shoulders and smooth slim arms. Her chest was absolutely perfect, her boobs were just the right size and shape to be perfect for her frame.

She was staring back at me in shock, and she gulped at the same time I did.

"Oh fuck me, this is real isn't it?" I asked myself quietly.

My voice was silky smooth, it wasn't too high-pitched but was very clearly feminine. I didn't know what the right word was, but whatever was right below soprano, that's what I figured my voice was.

I took a deep breath then stepped back from the counter and looked down at myself.

My hands seemed tiny compared to the big manly hands I had before. Now my fingers were slim and delicate, and my nails were long and perfectly shaped and manicured. My waist was narrow, my hips were wide, my ass was perfectly rounded. My legs were long and smooth and shapely, and my feet were small and kind of cute. There was a small triangle of black hair between my legs, and below that...

I gulped again, "Holy fuck I really am a girl."

For the next few minutes I just stood there staring at myself.

Eventually I figured out why I had trouble finding the light-switch. I had to be a good six inches shorter now than I was used to. The light switches, door knobs, counter, everything was slightly higher than I remembered.

I was still staring at myself when I heard the kitchen door unlock as my mom got home from work.

My heart skipped another beat. I turned out the light and dashed back to my bedroom and closed the door just as I heard mom's footsteps reach the hall. I stood there behind my door, my heart pounding as I held my breath and listened.

Mom went past my room and into her bedroom at the end of the hall, then a few seconds later she emerged and entered the bathroom. I let out a sigh of relief when the shower started running a minute later. Her after-work routine was a shower, get ready for bed, then depending on whether she was more tired or more stressed, she might go straight to bed or she might have a drink first.

I was almost in a panic now. I had no idea if mom would somehow recognize me like this. I didn't look anything like I used to, and I didn't look like mom either. I looked like a complete stranger now.

And I had less than thirty minutes to decide what to do.

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