Chapter 11
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Autumn’s story had started a chain reaction. Pretty soon everyone in the room was taking turns talking about what had led them into becoming the women they now were. Not everyone spoke about it, so far two women had declined, but most of them did. And as they did, Natalie’s suspicions were slowly but surely confirmed. They had all been men in a past life, and each had varying levels of remembrance of it.

Natalie listened as the woman before her finished telling her story. According to her, she had been cursed after calling a woman a bitch at a bar. It was a pretty dumb story, mainly because it made absolutely no sense to transform someone to “teach them a lesson” if you are just going to erase their memories and change their entire personality anyway. At that point why not just change their personality so that they’d already learned the lesson? Also, identity death for calling a woman a bitch? Seriously? Some of these perpetrators were the pettiest people alive.

Natalie noticed a few faces had turned toward her, as if anticipating something. Oh right, she was up next.

“Uh, no. I don’t want to talk about it.” Didn’t want to talk about Astian, more accurately. His mere name was enough to strike anger into her heart.

The last woman in line, Victoria, took the floor and began telling her story.

“I’ve had quite a few years to prepare this one. I hope it satisfies all your expectations.” She smirked. “It all started when I was a 26 year old man named Victor, living with my girlfriend in my apartment. We had been trying to save up for a real house for years, and just couldn’t do it. The costs were ridiculous! And we didn’t have enough for a mortgage either. It was that, along with the fact that work was getting very busy for me at the time, that made me so stressed I didn’t even notice my girlfriend was going out so much. Now at first, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, so I let it go. But then I found a used condom in her car. At that point I was too stressed to even be mad, but that didn’t mean I didn’t confront her. She got real mad but eventually she apologized and said she wouldn’t do it again. I decided to give her a second chance. That…” She paused. “Turned out to be the worst mistake I’d ever make in my life.”

Already Natalie could tell just how similar this story was to her own. Against her will, sparks began lighting up within her.

“The very next day I was fired from my job for some bullshit reason. At the time I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse. A horrible thing to think, because every single time it crosses your mind you quickly find that yes, things can get worse. A LOT worse, in fact.”

Natalie braced herself for what was about to come.

“As I tried to find a new job, my girlfriend began acting weird toward me. It started with her calling me ‘sweetheart’ and ‘sweetie’ and such. Then with her insisting I couldn’t drive anywhere or cook or really do anything by myself. It got even worse when things like my wallet, phone, and computer started disappearing. When I confronted her she told me I was just imagining things. It was all weirding me out, so I contemplated leaving, but my car had disappeared too. And when I tried to use my girlfriend’s car, I found that I had actually forgotten how to drive. Pulling out of the apartment driveway felt like the first time I had ever driven in my life, and it freaked me out real hard so I went back. The next three weeks after that were a nightmare.”

Victoria began to look visually uncomfortable as the next part began.

“Things kept changing with no explanation. Hell, I was changing. I continued forgetting things like how to fill out a job application or how to do my own laundry. My girlfriend began to do a lot of things for me, and for some reason, she looked really happy about it. And yes, my body began changing too. I noticed I was shrinking and my face was looking more juvenile. I started to have a hard time seeing my girlfriend as my girlfriend. Like, I couldn’t kiss her that way anymore. It grossed me out. Not just that, but I began to feel like I had to listen to whatever she said, because she was right about everything and was much smarter than me. Basically, I was starting to see her as my mother, but my mind was trying to keep me from realizing that.”

Natalie clenched her fists. It was impossible for this to not remind her of Astian, and all the awful shit he did to her. How was Victoria so calm when telling this? How could anyone be calm about this? Their entire life was stolen from them because of some deranged power fantasy!

“The last week was hell. Everything happened so fast. My girlfriend said we were moving, and all my bags were already packed. I saw that all my clothes looked like stuff a preteen girl would wear. None of my old clothes were there. Once we got to our new house, which did look pretty nice, it was only a few days before I was completely an 11 year old girl. But despite everything that had happened, I was still determined to fight this. And you want to know something? I almost won. I almost stopped them. I was so close.”

Natalie saw Victoria’s eyes had the hints of tears forming in them. However they were gone just as quickly as they came. For the most part, she was still calm, which only ignited the flame within Natalie more and more.

“One night I stayed up late and walked around the house, trying to see if there was anything I could do. My mind had mostly regressed to an 11 year old girl’s at that point but I still had enough of my adult self left to know that my time was running out and I would soon lose everything. Thankfully, it seemed luck was on my side, at least for a brief moment, as my girlfriend forgot to lock her bedroom door. I opened it, looked inside, and caught her with some other guy. I’d never seen him before, but I saw they were both writing weird symbols on some papers and speaking in some weird language. They didn’t even notice me before I said ‘I knew it was magic’. They were shocked at first but then tried to tell me that this was for the best. My girlfriend said I was ‘too stressed’ or something and that this guy had a nice job and we’d finally have the house we’d been trying to get for so long. Oh, by the way the house we moved into was that guy’s house. Anyway, said guy was the same guy she’d been cheating on me with, I’d never actually seen him before that. He said he just kind of went along with it and only helped her a bit. He didn’t even know magic existed before meeting her. ‘It was her idea’, he said. As you can imagine, it didn’t make me feel better.”

How could someone ever do something like this to another person? How could it be possible to care so little about the sanity of another human being? The people who committed identity death were the kinds of people who could never be reformed. The selfishness, the entitlement, and the depravity could never be fixed.

“They were trying to convince me to ‘give in’, because that would make everything easier. But I didn’t want to lose myself, so I just left the room in the middle of one of their long winded persuasive speeches. They didn’t call me back.” It took a few seconds before Victoria became ready to share the next part of the story. “My plan was a murder-suicide. My girlfriend wanted to make me into her daughter, and I wasn’t going to let her have that. I went to the attic to the gun cabinet, but then I realized I didn’t have the key. I couldn’t break the glass, no matter how hard I tried, so I had to go find it. I went to their bedroom, which they had stupidly left. I found it in one of their drawers. I went back to the attic and was almost to the cabinet before I was caught and my girlfriend pinned me to the wall. I attempted to put up a fight against her, but at that point I knew it was over. She was much stronger than me and there was no way I’d be able to get to the cabinet. But I still tried as hard as I could. Eventually the guy who apparently was to become my new father came into the attic and saw us fighting. My girlfriend yelled at him to grab the key from me, but he didn’t even seem to register her. Instead he just stared. I don’t know what was going through his mind, but seeing that scene was what pushed him over the edge. He said something like ‘fuck this’ or ‘this magic shit is getting too much for me’ and then left. And that’s the last time I ever saw him. I have no idea where he is now, magic enforcement was never able to find him. To this day, I’m still not sure if he was a brainwashed victim of my girlfriend's magic and seeing us fight was what snapped him out of it, or if he had free will the entire time and seeing us fight was what made him realize he didn’t want any part in this scheme anymore.”

The fact that Victoria was so willing to give these monsters the benefit of the doubt sickened Natalie to her core.

“My girlfriend got the key from me, and that’s when things start to get a bit… well, not blurry but hard to think clearly about. She yelled at me like I was fully her child, calling me things like ‘an ungrateful spoiled little bitch’. She then slapped my face a couple times and forced me into my room. There wasn’t enough of my male self left to resist her, and I was too deflated over how I just lost everything. I cried before I fell asleep. I still remember how terrified I was. I was actually begging for my mother, my REAL mother to come and tell me that everything would be okay. And… that’s it. I woke up the next morning with no memory of the previous day or my life as a man. I didn’t even remember that I had done something ‘wrong’ the night before and cried about it. I guess my ‘mother’ was really mad about her new husband leaving her, because she erased my ‘father’ from my life entirely. Apparently he left when I was really young. Too young to remember him or what he looked like. The only memories I have of that guy are of that one awful night.”

Victoria’s real family had been torn away from her forever. Her real mother didn’t recognize or even know who she was anymore. There was no contest, Victoria’s situation was far worse than Natalie’s, and yet she was so much calmer in spite of that. Did all those years remembering soften her up? Natalie could not let that happen to her.

“I guess I should talk about the aftermath. My ‘mother’, it’s really hard to call her that, got arrested a week after and was sentenced to… I think it was twenty-five years in prison for magic abuse. Now, from my perspective at that time, I was completely an 11 year old girl, so magic enforcement deemed I was not fit to know the truth. The explanation they came up with was that my fake mom got lost in a police chase. It wasn’t until I was 15 that they told me what really happened. I’ve been spending the past few years trying to sort this shit out, all while being stuck in a foster home. It’s been a hellish seven years.”

“Wow, I’m so sorry.” One of the women in the room said. “How are you coping with it?”

“It’s hard. I’ll never forgive her for what she did to me, I know that for sure. But I don’t have the energy to be mad about it anymore. My main goal is to just move on. I don’t know who I am, but I have to move on.”

Who she was was a grown man. How was that even a question? Had she lost her mind? Had everyone in the room lost sight of who they were? Was Natalie the only identity death victim left here with some god damn sense?

“The last thing I’ll say is this, I know a lot of adults who have said they want to be kids again. Take it from me, an adult who was forced to be a kid again, you don’t. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if you only went back to like, 17 or something, but fully growing up a second time is an awful, awful experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Seeing your mind regress to that of a child’s is terrifying. You slowly lose yourself, along with your freedom and control. You feel like you’re going insane, because in a way, you basically are. It doesn’t stop there though. When I started remembering my male life, I basically became a thirty-something year old man in a teenage girl’s body, which is just fucking horrible. Being a student in high school with an adult mind is complete hell. The classes are way too easy for me and way below my level, which makes acing them feel like nothing. I feel empty about it, like I didn’t earn it. But even worse is the teen drama, which I have to navigate as an adult. I can’t even date anyone without feeling like a child predator. I hate it. I hate all of it. So. Much. I just want it to stop.”

But it can never stop. Every day you live will only continue the fake fantasy life forced onto you. The life you didn’t even want before you were made to want it. There can be no escape from this. And none of the people here seemed to be interested in the hard facts.

Natalie forced herself to rein in her ever growing anger. She had had beyond enough of these spineless people.

When her anger finally came out, she stood up from her chair and stormed out of the room.