The Trials
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I needed to yell for someone. A strange blue haired woman was lounging on my bed wearing something the Queen of Saxonia would wear, emerald crown included, and I was just standing in silent awe. My mind raced with dozens of questions, half of them incomprehensibly stupid. As a result of the conflict in my mind my brain instead decided to leave me standing still with my door ajar.

“Well come on in, then! No need to wait for permission to enter your own room.” Her second comment helped me put things together - her voice sounded identical to the woman in my coma. The one who called herself Magic.

I quietly chose to trust her, and shut my door behind me. I didn’t step more than a half a meter from the door, just in case. If she was Magic what I did probably wouldn’t matter, but I still felt comfortable with a relatively safe distance between us.

“Kid, you’re smart. I was in your core for over a month and didn’t hurt you, I’m not going to do so now. Plus your sister would kill me. Not sure how, but she’d find a way. Girl is terrifying.” And there she was, just casually throwing around nonsense like it was money and she was a millionaire. How did she know my sister? And which… one…

Oh.

“You’re Maggy.” I wanted to feel like a genius for figuring that out, but honestly I just felt kind of slow for taking so long. The pieces were all there. Then again, I was apparently good at missing obvious answers to persistent puzzles plaguing my perturbed person.

“Ugh, is that what she told you to call me? The gall of that woman, I’ll have to puni… punctually get on to her later.” Maggy cut herself off mid sentence and changed her statement to something once again nonsensical. Was this all a joke to her? “Look, call me Magic or Mageara, but don’t call me Maggy. That name’s reserved for a rare few. That aside, I’m here to prepare you for what’s coming. It’s time you grew up, kid, and I’m here to make sure you do it right.”

I froze, terrified of the implications of her words. ‘Growing up’ could have meant anything, but she could very easily have meant putting me back to normal. After all, she gave me this body, why couldn’t she take it away? I calmed myself after a moment, sure that she really meant something much less horrifying to imagine. After all, I promised myself a week and it wasn’t anywhere close to the next Thursday.

“Take my damn hand already. I’m showing you a picture of where we’re going, and then I want you to let me take you there. I promise it’s nowhere dangerous, I don’t intend to let you get hurt.” I must have been lost in my thoughts for too long, as Magic closed the distance between us and held one hand out while showing me a picture in the other. 

It was an old image, looking more like a painting than a photo, with a small, crying girl surrounded by a raging blizzard. The poor thing was wearing almost nothing, and I could almost feel the storm surrounding her slowly drain her life away. Everything in the picture was either grey or white, with the exception of the girl’s brown hair and the ugly brown sack she was wearing. 

I blinked once, and suddenly I felt the blistering winds tearing into my skin through my pajamas. My bare feet already felt frozen by the snow surrounding them. Within seconds I felt sapped of all energy, and Magic was nowhere to be seen. Instead I saw the little girl from the picture holding herself in the fetal position as the snow began to cover her.

I couldn’t waste time to think, couldn’t risk letting us get consumed by this storm. I wasn’t an expert, but I was well versed with the basics of increasing or decreasing the temperature of our body and its immediate surroundings. Quickly and quietly I held myself still, trying to pull at the ever elusive string within everyone that provided magical energy. It was a foreign feeling - I’d never cast a spell before, we weren’t supposed to until we were in Upper school - but I was always a quick learner.

I imagined my soul gripping onto that magical cord and holding tightly to it, and as I did I felt full of an unimaginable amount of energy. I didn’t have time to process that, I screamed at that cord in my soul, ordering it to provide me the heat necessary to live. 

In an instant I felt the chill around me die, and any snow that touched me began to evaporate the moment it made contact with my skin or clothes. I wished I had more time to appreciate that I just used magic but I had to hurry. The girl needed me, she couldn’t be allowed to die here. 

I rushed over to her and pulled her into my arms, Goddess she was so cold. Worse, she wasn’t opening her eyes, was she even conscious? I had to hurry. “Hey! Wake up, please! You can’t fall asleep here!” I screamed over the blizzard just to hear my voice, hoping it would reach her. When she didn’t move my hopes were dashed, and I was rapidly running out of ideas. My clothes were thin, and the heat they provided wasn’t going to be near enough to outdo the freezing cold surrounding us. She needed to be warmed up, but I didn’t know the incantation to cast a heating spell on someone else. 

There wasn’t time, I had to try. I didn’t even bother making an incantation, the odds of that backfiring were simply way too high. Instead I once again looked within myself and held on tight to that string of light and energy me. The moment I grabbed it I felt like I was seeing myself in two different places at once. The me holding on to the string was where most of my vision was focused, but behind that it was like I was everything directly around the real me, the me in the storm. 

I wasted no more time worrying about wherever I was or wasn’t. I focused everything I had on the little girl and pleaded with the magic to protect her as it did me. I felt a wave of exhaustion hit me in full force, and I was back again in the snowstorm with the girl cradled in my arms. She felt so much warmer to the touch than she had, and I had guessed that the spell worked. I didn’t have the energy to think more about it, exhaustion set in so quickly that it felt almost impossible to keep my eyes open. It would be okay if I closed them for just a second, right?

Just a second...

*****

“Alright, excellent job! You made it through the first trial easily enough. Now then, what did you learn?” I woke with a start to Magic’s voice filling the air, and looked around to find myself alone in an unfamiliar school classroom. Standing at the front was undoubtedly Magic again, this time dressed in a fine suit with her blue hair cut in a much more butch style. 

Wait. Where was the girl? I looked under the desks and all around the room, but couldn’t see her anywhere. What happened to the blizzard? Why was I here now?

I was going to ask all three of these questions when Maggy answered them for me, in a way. “These are my memories, and you are a guest within them. You may interact with them at your leisure, and as I’m sure you’ll soon guess you can utilize magic within someone’s core. Now then, with that covered, what did you learn?” 

She sounded like a professor talking down to an idiotic student as she spoke, and it did little to instill confidence in me. My response was barely loud enough for my voice to make it across the room. “I guess I learned how to use magic? In here, at least.” I assumed that was the correct answer. I hoped it was.

Her smile told me that yes, it was. “Good, good. Glad you’re not oblivious over everything. One thing you didn’t mention was the toll it took. You did an excellent job protecting both yourself and the girl from the cold, but I’m sure you felt drained once you cast your magic on her. That’s why we learn and use incantations. Influencing others with magic is incredibly costly to yourself unless you know the steps necessary to guide magic properly.”

Once she finished explaining, Magic turned to a blackboard that I swear appeared out of thin air and began writing.

Three Trials:

Will - Pass

Intent - 

Consent - 

As she finished Magic turned back to me with a bit of a frown on her face. “These next two trials aren’t coming from my memories, just so you’re aware. And they’re far more taxing than the first could ever be. I’ll let you ask a single question before we start on the harder stuff, as a preemptive apology.”

Preemptive apology? Was it really going to be that bad? I could have asked, but it felt like a waste of a question. No, better idea. “Why are you doing this?” It felt smart, gave me a chance to be vague so maybe she provided me with more information than I’d otherwise get. 

“Primarily because my girlfriend asked me to. Plus you’ll be on the receiving end of these trials within a year anyway. I’m just speeding things up and hoping to teach you more about yourself in the process.” I stopped paying attention after the word ‘girlfriend’ escaped her lips. The living embodiment of magic was dating someone? Someone who knew me? 

I was on the way to figuring it out when I felt a terrible and familiar feeling deep in my gut. I looked down only to find myself in my old body again. No. No no no, that isn’t fair. Why was I already back in this, I still had time. And why did it hurt so much?

A glance at the people around me and the stage ahead of us brought me right back to the beginning. Except this time the uneasy feeling always at the back of my mind was in full control. It was like my few full days as a girl had woken up something long dormant inside of me that could never be put back. Was this what it would be like to go back to pretending to be a boy? And when did going back become pretending instead of being? Was it always an act I was so good at playing that I lied even to myself?

I wanted to curl up in a ball and die, it wasn’t fair. I hadn’t gotten a chance to prepare myself for this, hadn’t gotten a chance to say goodbye. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be a normal boy? The answer was obvious, so obvious that I was so fucking stupid for missing it after all this time. I was not a boy, was never a boy, and nothing could ever make me want to go back. And who could make me? Who would make me if I said no?

“Young man, are you even listening to me? I said you’re my volunteer, now get up here this instant!” I had to push down the unexpected agony that hit me as he called me ‘young man’. What was once vague discomfort had blossomed into more emotional pain than I’d ever be willing or able to accept.

For a moment I was reluctant to stand up, but then I realized exactly what was coming. My pain would only last a few minutes at most. I couldn’t keep a stupid grin from forming as I walked up to the stage. My body began shaking with excitement as Rivan once again gave his explanation. Something something powerful spell. I didn’t care about the details, I just wanted my body back. I watched with glee as his fingers clumsily danced to cast the transformation spell, and I thought I could feel him use the word ‘humiliation’ as he hit me with it. 

The world went white for a moment, and I was back in the familiar classroom. Back in my body, the body that fit me in a way nothing else could. I was grateful not for the first time for Rivan’s accidental blessing.

“Alright. Sorry about that, but that memory was one of the best I could think of at showing Intent. The dysphoria was an unfortunate side effect. Now that the scene has extra context in your ability to feel magic, what did you learn?” Magic was quick to pull me back to the ever so important subject at hand, unfortunately. Also, dysphoria? Was that what that was? Oh, shit, of course it was. If I’m actually a girl then that meant I’ve been experiencing dysphoria.

It didn’t take me long to switch trains of thought and answer her question. After all, his magical aura had basically screamed it as he cast the spell. “He wanted to humiliate me, not teach a lesson. That was his intent.” I felt proud of myself as I answered, glad I had paid enough attention to easily figure it out.

I was flabbergasted when Magic shook her head. “Please, kid. All you’re doing with that answer is confirming what we all already guessed. What you learned is very important, but think deeper. What did you learn about Rivan?”

Rivan? That he was okay with making kids embarrassed in front of their peers if it meant assuaging his wounded pride. My eyes went wide for a moment, and Magic grinned as I practically yelled out “Wait! How did the spell to change me work if he meant to humiliate me?” So not only was Rivan proud, he considered wanting to be the opposite sex, or being a woman, humiliating. It didn’t matter which, both beliefs were disgusting.

“Excellent work! Vera wasn’t kidding, you really are quick.” Magic was literally glowing with pride as she wrote ‘pass’ next to the word ‘intent’. I didn’t have time to process her final comment before her mood shifted as she turned back to me. “You’ve done great so far. You’re a quick study, and it’s obvious that you were more than prepared for these trials. However, this next one’s even more personal and painful than the previous one.”

Before I could ask what it was or why I saw everything around me, starting with her, vanish into nothingness. I was alone in a familiar feeling void, still filled with its vibrant greens and yellows. I had to wonder, why was my core lemon-lime flavored, anyway? Was everyone else’s? Whatever, questions for later. 

I assumed Magic was pulling the same thing she did last time, though I had no idea what her plan was. What memory was she going to use to teach me consent? That was the last trial, so it was obviously going to be involved in some way. 

I had intended to browse through my memories to find out what she was going to use, but before I could even begin I felt a massive pulling sensation as my body was rapidly and involuntarily moved across the void of space that was my mind. And then I stopped, and in moments everything I had ever been flashed before my eyes.

I was a six year old boy, innocently commenting on how pretty my big sister Roni’s summer solstice dress was. She gave me a big smile and asked if I wanted to wear it, too. I paused for a moment, and shook my head. I was a boy, boys weren’t supposed to wear dresses.

I was nine years old, Griff was talking about how they always knew they weren’t a girl or a boy. I asked how they knew, and they said they just did. I shrugged, said okay, and went back to playing tag.

I was eleven, and had been pulled into a room with all of the boys in my year. They told us about our bodies and how they were going to slowly mature and become more male over the next few years. We’d be like our fathers or brothers. I got cold when I thought about being like Andrew, I was so horrified at the idea that I had to excuse myself to go throw up.

That same day Veronica pulled me aside and told me about how she knew she wasn’t a boy when she was born, even though the doctors thought she was. I asked how she knew, just like Griff, and she responded with the same thing: She just did. I hoped I could be like her, but I knew I couldn’t have been. After all, she and Griff knew when I didn’t.

I put the thoughts away, and assumed my worries were just related to other things. I was a boy, I hadn’t known my whole life, so I couldn’t possibly be anything else.

I only became more and more depressed as time went on. I always looked at Andrew with horror in my heart, wondering when I was going to grow tall like him, or start having to shave. He boasted about the fact that he was becoming more and more male, and had been so excited to teach me about growing up as the only older male figure in my life. I constantly avoided him and recoiled at the idea of anything to do with what he wanted. Eventually he gave up.

The last memory I saw was of me, a few weeks before Rivan’s visit, staring with growing hate into a bathroom mirror. I had the barest hint of black hair beginning to sprout on my face. I didn’t even think when I saw them, I grabbed Andrew’s razor and tore up my face trying to get rid of it. He made a joke that night about me messing up my first try shaving, and offered to take me to go buy shaving cream and my own razor. I didn’t let anyone see my cry when we got home.

Tears were beginning to form as I finished looking through my life. The world shifted back to the classroom, once again with the familiar presence of Magic standing by the blackboard. There was pity in her eyes.

“It’s so terrible, how easily someone’s entire life can change based on a simple misunderstanding. You based your beliefs around your sister misspeaking, not adequately getting her intended point across. She meant to open your mind to the idea that you didn’t have to be a boy or man if you didn’t want to, and instead she accidentally closed your mind to any option but that.” Magic let out a tired sigh as she finished her explanation. 

I didn’t say anything in response. I felt like such an idiot. Of course I based my entire perception of what I could or couldn’t be on a few sentences, that was what I was best at! I was always overthinking, letting myself get so worked up over the simplest of things. Even before I started my trials Magic’s comment on growing up nearly gave me a panic attack. Why did I always let myself fall into these random pits of fear for no reason?

I didn’t notice when I began crying. I didn’t bother trying to hold myself together, after all I could easily just fuck that up as well. I looked up when I felt a hand on my shoulder, and above me Magic was standing incredibly awkwardly. “I’m not too good at this, but, uh, there there.”

Suddenly thinking about the most powerful force in the universe awkwardly trying to comfort me brought a smile to my face. Of course she was bad with people. “Thanks. I think… I think I needed that.” I wiped away my tears and looked up at her with a smile still clear on my face. 

“Well, uh, good. I’m definitely glad you’re smiling now. Didn’t want Roni to kill me.” Magic stood over me for a bit longer with an uncomfortable look on her face, before instantly placing herself back in front of the blackboard. “Ahem. Where were we? Ah! The Last Trial.” She turned around and circled ‘consent’ multiple times with her chalk. “Consent! Tell me, Samantha, what would happen if someone were to try to make you male again?”

I didn’t hesitate, I wasn’t going to lie to myself or anyone else anymore. “Nothing, the spell would fail. Even if I thought I wanted it to work, it wouldn’t.” I spoke with confidence, as much as I could with my cheeks still puffy and wet.

“Perfect!” Magic wrote ‘Consent - Pass’ on the chalkboard, which vanished into nothingness once more. Before I could even comprehend the rest of what was happening the world began to vanish as well, slowly filling with the now familiar white light.

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