4. The Spectacles – by Paradox
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A chill ran down the boy’s body. He looked down at his arms. His arms were smooth and lacked the arm hair that he started to grow when he hit puberty. As he rubs his hand over his forearm he got a jolt of euphoria. Is this magic real? He always wanted to be a girl. He’s always been a more feminine boy. He yearned to wear his sister’s clothes. Those Bullies that chased him in here made fun of him for not being man enough. For being a wimp and for not playing sports.

He looked around for the owner of the bookstore. He didn’t want to get in trouble, but he wanted to continue listening to these stories to see this through.

The Spectacles - by Paradox

“Please be careful, Matthew,” my partner, John, said through the intercom. “This plan is extremely risky, all things considered. Not even a madman would take such a dangerous course of action.”

“I know, I know,” I replied, taking a deep breath to calm my nerves. “But we don’t have a choice. This individual has already plunged three nations into civil war and terrorized countless more. We need to take them down before any more countries fall to their terror.”

“Understandable, Matt, but again, this plan was incredibly risky. We know where this individual is. We have our sights on him…”

“Them,” I corrected. This wasn’t because of some respect for gender identity, it’s just that, as crazy as it sounds, this individual has shown up in different nations possessing different genders and identities. Knowing about this was just as absurd as knowing how we know. “They, codenamed Shifter by the intelligence community, is a tricky bastard who has used abnormal means to achieve their goals. We must move on them immediately.”

“As I was saying, we have our sights on them. Considering how dangerous this individual is, we should hold down the fort, maintain surveillance, and call for backup from local assets. I know we have several DIA assets in the area alone and we have connections with the host country. We can have an entire army on their ass by sundown.”

I grabbed my pistol from my car glove box. I was parked across from an abandoned three-story office building that I had tracked as the Shifter’s headquarters. It wasn’t just them here, it was an entire group of agents that the Shifter had working under them. “ Kathmandu… this city is not the place to be starting a firefight. Plus, we cannot risk any chance of them getting away. They are too dangerous. We have an opportunity and we must take it.”

I could hear John sigh over the radio. “May I remind you that we work for the Defense Intelligence Agency, not the Central Intelligence Agency. We’re not supposed to be here and we are vastly outnumbered and outgunned.”

“That’s why we have this amazing, yet incredibly dangerous plan,” I countered.

“Still doesn’t change my opinion,” John muttered through the radio.

I glanced over to an apartment building across from the office building. “Look John,” I tried to reassure him. “I know this plan is dangerous. I know the risks involved. But the Shifter has already destroyed thousands of lives by creating wars and chaos. This is a military response and we have to protect those who still live on. We owe it to the people in those countries to stop this individual and now we have the chance. If this plan is what it will take to destroy this individual, then I’m willing to accept that cost. Are you with me, partner?”

I heard nothing for a few seconds, worrying me that John would have refused. But then I heard him groan. “Fine. You know, I really hate the fact I got stuck with you as a partner.”

“Oh please, if it wasn’t for me, you would still be stuck at that desk job in Washington,” I replied, laughing a bit. We often bashed each other to make our jobs easier. What we did often put us on the line of death more than once. And if what we were told about confrontations with the Shifter were true, I would much rather be facing death.

“Any idea why the Shifter picked Nepal? It’s not exactly the collapsing state the other countries were before the Shifter got their hands on it,” John asked, changing the subject.

“Well, Nepal sits right in between China and India. Its destabilization could set off a series of events that lead to China going to war with India,” I offered.

“Seems like a very long shot if you ask me.”

I couldn’t agree more with him. After our guest filled us in on what to look for, it makes tracking the Shifter far easier. There was a pattern, only noticeable if you believed such things as magic existed, but it was there. Only, Nepal didn’t fit that pattern.

“According to our source, the Shifter should have the form of a thin, short twenty-some-year-old Thai woman, correct?” I asked, my turn to change the subject.

“That’s what she told us and that’s exactly who I watched walk into that office building twenty minutes ago,” John confirmed.

“Same.” I cocked my gun one last time, ensuring that it was loaded. “Here we go. Maintain radio silence on your end.”

“I got your six,” John assured through the radio. I got out of the car and with one last glance at the apartment building, I made my way into the back alleys of the office building. A recon of the building indicated that it had no security cameras, an odd feature of the building seeing how the Shifter was using it, but an advantage to me. I quickly slipped through an unlocked door with my gun raised, ready to face down… nothing. There was nobody here. Hell, there was no sign that anybody had been here to begin with. It was just a decaying, crumbling office building.

“Nobody’s here,” I whispered through the radio. “First floor cleared, moving to the second floor.” I moved stealthily, careful not to make any sound that would alert the Shifter to my presence. This plan had to work, otherwise we would risk destabilizing the entire region. I quickly made my way through the second floor, finding nothing. “Second floor cleared, moving to the third floor.”

On the third floor, however, I came face to face with an unnerving sight: the Thai woman, the one that we had been tracking, sitting on a chair and smiling at me. “It’s about time you got here. I was getting lonely.” I moved to raise my gun, but before I could react, someone stepped up behind me and wrapped their arms around me, holding me tight. Whoever this person was, they were freaking massive. I struggled to escape, but the person held firm. The woman slowly got up and made her way over to me. Her green eyes, despite their color, were unnatural. They didn’t belong to this woman. They belonged to the Shifter, who, without a word, pulled a pair of spectacles out of her jacket’s pocket and put them on me. “They say that the eyes are the window into the soul.”

The person holding me let go and I reached to yank off the spectacles, but I could not get them off. It was almost as if they were glued on. “I’m going to enjoy wearing you,” she said, her voice full of malice. I felt my body painfully jerk, then violently spasm. Then, I blacked out.
I had no idea how long I was out, but when I came to, everything felt wrong. My eyes struggled to see, but my body felt so weak as if I had been drugged nine ways from Sunday. I tried moving, but a weight on my chest seized me in a panic.

“Ten minutes. That’s a new record.” Someone with my voice said. “Normally, individuals that I swap bodies with take at least an hour to wakeup. You got one strong soul there, Matthew.” Finally, my eyes fluttered open and I saw myself, sitting on a chair right across from me. The only thing different was the eyes, they weren’t my blue color. The Shifter had done to me what they had done to our source and plenty of other victims; they stole my body.

“Wha… wha… what… happen…” I tried to speak, but my voice was soft and feminine. I was now in the woman’s body. The feeling was beginning to return as I realized that I had been bound to the chair with a rope around my waist. However, even though the feeling hadn’t returned in my hands, I could see that the Shifter never bothered to bind them. Not that it mattered, I couldn’t move them.

“Oh please,” the Shifter mocked. “Like you were any threat to me. It takes hours for a newly switched soul to gain control of its new body unless, of course, you have these.” They held up the spectacles. “That, and you are now in the body of a woman and I’m in your body. This modern world is all about equality, but physical strength is quite clear.” They got up and walked over to the table, grabbing and reloading my gun. “You know, Matthew, I’m honored to be using your body.”

“You mean you stole my body! Just like you stole this woman’s body” I yelled in a womanly voice, suddenly finding the strength to shout.

“And yet even more reason to respect you. Yelling mere moments after waking up. I’m greatly impressed,” the Shifter gloated. Their tone was that of a gladiator who had won every fight they had been in. “As for that body, well, I put it to better use. Its old owner was deadbeat, no family, a waste of potential.”

“Yet she was the only one to escape you. She told us everything.”

The Shifter’s smirk disappeared for a brief time. “Yes, she did, they temporarily conceded. “I’m impressed you actually believed her. In fact, in the six years that I’ve been active, nobody has ever gotten this close to me, only to blow it searching this office.”

“I’m honored,” I spat. “So, what’s your secret? Alien technology?” I was being sarcastic, but the Shifter didn’t seem to care.

“These?” They shook the spectacles. “Well… since you have gained my respect, I’ll give you a rundown version. These, my friend, are magical glasses. The best I can assume is that they grant immortality by allowing its owner to switch bodies with someone else. And before you ask, the transfer for the ‘victim’ is permanent. Congratulations, you’re stuck in the body of a woman for the rest of your life. Your short life, as I do not leave witnesses.”

The Shifter was monologuing, but it was clear to me that they remained collected to avoid revealing any unnecessary information about themselves. This was not the first time they have confronted someone like before. But nevermind that, since I needed to keep them talking for the sake of the plan. “I don’t get it. You gain the key to immortality… then why go into the business of destabilizing third world countries?”

“You misunderstand me, thinking that I only started this after I gained the power of the gods. No, I’ve been in this game for a very long time. I’m an agent of change, a vessel for which the world will understand its true destiny. And once I found the glasses, I understood my true purpose in this world. Through immortality, I will rule this world.”

“So, you start small and work your way up. But why Nepal?” I asked.

The Shifter got up and walked over to a window, looking out. “Nothing… I have nothing against this place. Once I knew you were after me, I realized that this presented me with the perfect opportunity to accelerate my plans. Two DIA agents after me? I could not let the opportunity pass. So, I created the entire plot with Nepal solely to lure you and your partner here so I could use your body to infiltrate the United States government. Taking it down would destroy the world.”

“I’m flattered,” I muttered. But the Shifter didn’t reply. They just stood at the window, looking out on the city. The silence gave me a moment to look over my situation. My body had been stolen from me and I was now in the body of a young woman. I could feel my breasts, I could feel lacking in my groin. Many new feelings that I barely understood were flooding my mind and all I really could feel at this moment was regret. I knew this person, how scared she was found, when she came under my protection. There was nothing we could do for her as her innocence, body, and life got stolen away from her by no fault of hers. But I guess I could feel some satisfaction taking her body back from that insane man. I failed to protect her when the agents of the Shifter came and I had to make it up to her by avenging her.

“And now… I’m disappointed in you and your partner,’” the Shifter finally muttered, walking back over to me. I never realized how tall I was, my body was towering over me.

“How so?”

“You are so stupid,” they mocked. “Two DIA agents, tracking down the one person on this god-forsaken planet that should have been untrackable and you make the most dumbass mistakes. You don’t secure your communications lines, allowing me to listen to your entire plan. You think the building is crawling with my agents, yet your partner chooses to let you go in alone… speaking of your partner.” The Shifter pulled out a radio. “He’s holed up in that apartment building, isn’t he? Hiding like a coward, letting you face me alone. How pitiful. Too bad it will cost him his life.”

“What… what do you mean?” I asked nonchalantly, hiding any feelings I may have had about this.

“This.” They flipped on the radio. Suddenly, the realization hit me that the radio they had wasn’t a radio. It was a detonator. The Shifter hit a button and I watched the entire complex go up in flames before collapsing. “That’s one down.”

“So what now? You kill my partner, now you kill me?” I speculated.

The Shifter smiled, tossing the detonator to the side. “I have every intention of killing you. But not yet. My partner would… like some time with you before then.” The Shifter’s partner stepped out from the shadows. He was massive, towering over even my body, and had armed the size of tree trunks. No wonder he was able to capture me so quickly.

As he moved on me, I quickly thought of a solution to buy a bit more time. “Wait! Don’t you need me alive? You may have my body, but not my memory or habits. I can be useful.”
The Shifter’s smirk grew wider, a reaction that I was honestly not expecting. “How pitiful. For such a well-trained DIA agent, you are functionally stupid. No, I don’t need you. You may not have access to the original host’s memories, but I do. Over time, maybe a day at most, I gain access to more and more of your memories until I have all of them. Your sad, pitiful memories. You abandoned your parents for what? A useless career? Divorced, no kids. You are a sad, pitiful man… correction, woman.”

That slightly unnerved me, so I decided to test them. “Oh… so I guess you don’t remember the fight at the Bar O’Reilly’s in Ireland?” I asked dejectedly.

“No,” they replied.

That was it. That’s all I needed to know. Admittedly, my heart began to raise when they told me that he had access to all my memories. But the fact they blew up the apartment building confirmed that they truly didn’t have access to the last few months, when this plan was being formed. Glancing around, taking notice of where the Shifter was and how close his enforcer was to the back door, I started to laugh. I found this to be hilarious. The Shifter was taken back by my laugh but did not lose their smile.

“You find this funny?”

“Yeah, I do. Wanna know why?” I asked without a hint of fear of my predicament.

“Humor me,” they replied.

“Well… I find this funny because of how stupid you are. You really thought we would risk open communication with a target as dangerous and resourceful as you? Do you really think that I, a trained operative, would enter this building in the middle of the day without a silencer and no backup? Do you really think I wouldn’t know about this trap you set? Do you really think we are that stupid? No, I’ve played you. Satellites have been watching this entire conversation, the bugs on my body have been relaying this entire conversation to headquarters and video footage proves that we in fact switched bodies via magical glasses.”

The Shifter’s smile diminished, but never quite left, clearly making it clear that they still thought they were in control of everything. “And why would you go through all that effort? Even if your reinforcements got here and you lived, you would still be stuck in the body of that pitiful woman for the rest of your life and your partner is dead.”

Good question. “Well… to answer your question, two reasons. One, I owed it to that woman. She lost her body to you and then her life. I failed to protect her, even though it was my sworn duty, so I swore I would make it up to her.”

“By giving up your own body to take hers back from me? Brilliant, brilliant plan. Except now, even if I’m unable to infiltrate the United States Government now, I will forever have all the knowledge of your training and the inner workings of the government’s intelligence apparatus. Even with that, I can accelerate my plans to bring peace in this region crashing down.” The Shifter’s smile was back. Clearly, they thought they had outsmarted me. Unfortunately for them, I had more tricks up my sleeve.

Now, it was my turn to laugh. “Oh, but that’s the best part. Reason number two. Because I needed a way to get you in a spot of my choosing. And once I did, my partner would handle the rest.”

“Your partner? Your partner is dead!” The Shifter yelled. It sounded like they were becoming slightly unhinged.

“Oh, you fool. You really thought he was there? Oh no, my partner isn’t dead,” I exclaimed.

“How do you know that, you pitiful bitch?” they barked in anger. The smile mixed with the anger made it clear that this individual was far from sane. Whether they were always like this or the body transfers corrupted his mind, it didn’t matter. Soon, the world will be rid of the Shifter.

“Simple…” I paused for a moment for dramatic effect. “My partner is a sniper.” The Shifter’s smile vanished in an instant, immediately realizing that my partner was never in the building and that they were standing exposed in the window. Before they had time to move, a bullet shot through the window from my partner over a mile and a half away, striking my stolen body in the head. In an instant, the Shifter fell to the ground, dead. This was the price I had to pay. The loss of my body to avenge the woman and rid the world of the Shifter. “Oh, and one more thing.” The Enforcer dropped dead seconds later with a knife in his back. “There are three of us, not two.”

The third partner, a woman named Miriam, Israeli Sayeret Matkal veteran, was a close friend of mine. After all, I recruited her personally. “You are one crazy bitch, Matthew,” she chuckled.

“But the plan did work,” I said in my new womanly voice.

“Yeah, it did.” She cut me free and helped me to my feet. Having control over my voice was one thing, walking was another, so she had to support me to keep me from falling. “Nice shot, John. That was one in a million,” she piped over the radio, turning on its speaker.

“Thanks,’ he replied over the radio. “Nice use of the bar fight as a code. Felt awful shooting Matthew’s body, but the plan worked. The Shifter is dead and we’ve avenged her.”

We’ve avenged her… but now, I get to spend the rest of my life as a woman. Miriam, ever the empath that she always claimed to be, picked up on this. “Hey, don’t worry about being a girl now. There are benefits to being a woman,” she said in an attempt to comfort me about my situation.

“It’s alright, Miriam. I’m content.” Really, I wasn’t, but I had to make the best of what I had, for both me and for the woman.

“Not to interrupt this bonding moment between you two girls, but shouldn’t we deal with a more important problem? The glasses?” John recommended through the radio.

Oh yeah… where did those go? The Shifter wasn’t holding them when they were killed and it was extremely important to find them. We couldn’t risk them falling into the hands of anybody else. Miriam lowered now female me back into the chair so she could look for my body for them. It didn’t take her long to find them in my jacket pocket. “These it?” She inquired.

“Yeah,” I answered. Miriam handed the glasses to me. For a moment, I studied them, noting a symbol that looked like the gender marks fused together on an eye. The Shifter said that the transfer was permanent. But on the off chance they were wrong, I could use them to transfer my mind into a male body that was brain dead. Sighing, I dismissed the thought. This body was mine now, the woman had been avenged, and the best thing I could do to ensure that these glasses could never harm anybody ever again was to destroy them.

I tossed the glasses onto the floor and Miriam crushed them with her boot. Seconds later, the crumbled glasses turned to dust, ending their threat on this world. “That’s the end of that,” she said.

“Yeah…” I agreed. As tempting it was to find a new body, I knew that it was far more important to destroy them than try to contain them “But at a cost of thousands dead and lives destroyed. Not to mention, this.” I motioned to my new breasts. “Let's just hope that there aren’t other magical artifacts out there like this one.”

“Agreed,” I heard John say through the radio. “If simple glasses could do this much damage, just imagine what others could do?” Yeah… that’s a good question. Magic was real… but what was it capable of? That was a question that I did not want to be answered.

Paradox is the author of multiple stories that can be found on TGStoryTime, ScribbleHub, and BigCloset