“You see, you are a very special person, not so much for you, but what’s happened to you. More importantly, what’s happened to you, when it’s happened, and what has happened next.”
“How about we get to the part where you’re doing cross-time experiments on me? What in the world is that about? And how do you know how wrong it’s gone, are you part of it?”
“I am involved in what’s going on, yes. Mostly, I’m here to help get you the information you need to get things going right.”
“So, what are these ‘cross-time experiments’ going on, and why are you doing them on me?”
“The experiments are to understand how human perception and the mind work. Actually, there are two experiments on perception, mind and time. One is going on now, in this time, which you participated in as a sophomore. For some reason, crucial details about that experiment are hidden, so you’ll need to find out who is conducting them, how it was done, who were the patients, and who else knows about it.”
“So what’s the second experiment?”
“The second experiment involves experiencing the past, not just as memory, but as direct events.”
“So, the second experiment lets you see what’s going on in the past as it happens, and you’re using it to figure out what the first experiment is?”
“Yes, that has become the main goal of the later experiment.”
“Why worry about what someone’s already done in the past? Why not just do what is supposed to be ‘the main goal of the experiment’? Why are you side-tracking yourselves? For that matter who…never mind, that would be side-tracking myself. What was the original ‘main goal’ of the experiment?”
“The original purpose was exploratory. We wanted to see if it works at all, before trying to step out blindly.”
“…and yet, here you are blindly messing with people’s heads, and bodies. Fine. so, what’s so blessed fascinating about this first experiment you found?”
“There is something involving the first experiment, and those who participated in it, that is overwhelmingly affecting the data available to the second one. It’s like a road block in time. Until we clear it, we can’t get around it, and any attempts to go elsewhere are sketchy at best.”
“I’m curious; how far in the future is the second experiment?”
“The second experiment occurs in 2020.”
“So how’s your hindsight?”
“Highly affected by double vision.”
“So what’s the economy like?”
“Limping along, but getting better.”
“So, uh, who won the Le Mans?”
“That data is not available.”
“Because our perspective, it hasn’t happened yet.”
“Well, why don’t you peek ahead and find out?”
“Because we don’t know where to peek, since it hasn’t happened yet.”
“So, who am I doing all of this investigative reporting to, and why doesn’t that person get off their duff or duffs and do it?”
“It’s obvious, isn’t it, when you think about it. Here, amaze yourself, and read my mind. Who is asking for this information?”
“I don’t know who’s asking for it! That’s why I’m asking you! What, are we doing an Abbott and Costello routine, now?”
“No, this is important, you need to do this yourself, otherwise things doesn’t work out right. Now, concentrate, who would be so interested in getting details of your life?”
“Oh. You’re saying that I’m doing this?”
“Yes. You’ve sent yourself back in time to fix what went wrong.”
“Okay, that’s a nice story. So riddle me this, Mr. Stoner-From-the-Future: what if sending me back is what went wrong?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, what if, because you sent me back, you messed yourself up, because I’m not the one you were supposed to send back? Because you sent me back to a world where I’M A FREAKING GIRL!!!”
“I said it before, you’re eight–“
“No, you glowing freak! Not a girl as in underage, a girl as in I’m not supposed to be in a female body. I am a guy!”
“Hmm, this situation is outside of my expected parameters. I need more info. I will return in a few hours. Meanwhile, get more info on the experiment here, and try to get closer to your sister. It’s good for you both and it will steady the connection to help us get you back.” He closed his eyes, clapped his hands, and reached for the closet door, only instead of opening it, he slid into the crack between it and the wall…and disappeared.
This is no dream, but some bad experiment, gone wrong. So wrong that not even the experimenters know what’s going on. Scared, frustrated, shocked silly and faced with an impossible situation, I did the only sensible thing I could.
I sat back down on my bed, hugged a pillow and cried.
I didn’t understand; that seems fair to me, since it doesn’t seem to make any sense. So somehow, two different groups got to playing tug-of-war with the fabric of the Universe, and reeled me into their chaos? I’m not involved with any of this; I’m from a different timeline completely! I’m a huge sci-fi fan, I’ve read the classics, Turtledove, Heinlein, Anderson, Barnes, even Cliff Simak. The guys in their stories are supposed to be intrepid explorers, eager for adventure– you know, overweening knuckleheads that never saw a situation they couldn’t jump into without thinking and mess things up more. Well, now one of those types went and jumped in the puddle of my life and splashed it all over Creation! And left me holding the bag! And by bag, I mean now I’m a chick with a totally different family structure! Now, don’t get me wrong, I love women, as often as I can «cue rimshot»; I like to be with them, but I don’t want to be one! I want to be a guy! I like being a guy! I really like being six feet tall!
Suddenly, it intruded into my awareness that I was not handling the weirdness in a way a typical eighteen-year old man would be, but more like an eighteen-year-old woman would. Which only got me crying even more. I mean, sure, this family is still together and living in the house I remember growing up in, with a brother and a sister, which is better, if only from a the-family-is-still-together perspective. However, it means that I’m going to have to interact with two people I have no freaking clue about, and two other people that I only used to have a freaking clue about! Plus, I have to do it as a girl! With boobs, and a vagina and…oh Lord, I’m going to have periods, aren’t I? Maybe I’m going to have one right now, I mean, my emotions have been pretty yo-yo-like and I’ve only been awake for two-and-three-quarter hours…and why am I so conscious of the time, anyway? I never had a strong time sense at all before this; I was notorious for being on “me time” in fact. I didn’t know if it was because I was no longer an only child, or because I was the eldest child, or if it was some side-effect of all of these crazy boneheads tossing me around into totally different versions of the world. For whatever reason, I now had a nagging feeling that I had an hour and fifteen minutes left to get ready before leaving to take L.L. to wherever her practice is. I only wish I had a nagging feeling of how long it would be until I had a penis and testes again.
I just couldn’t wrap my head around how willy-nilly this future operation seemed to be being run. Why didn’t those folks go talk to whoever had done that experiment? Why not go right to the source and find out what they had done, and what they were trying to do? Why even involve me at all? Why involve me in such a way that I get sucked into some parallel dimension where I’m the wrong sex? Why me? Fine, I “know” that the right answer to “why me” is always “why not?” But seriously, why frickin’ me?! I’m a Computer Engineering student, and just starting to get into topics involving digital electronics, instead of analog. As for volunteer experiments, I remember doing a lot of Economics experiments (‘cause you get pi-zaid), and maybe a Psych one, but I never did anything with Physics experiments outside of my own classes. My parents both studied microbiology, so they wouldn’t know anything helpful, either.
I sniffled and tucked the top of the pillow under my chin. Tears on the pillow will dry out, but snot is just disgusting. I saw a tissue box on the dresser, with my makeup stuff, and gave a contemptuous frown at the collection of little containers. «Crappy makeup! I’ve got gorgeous looks already, and I wear contacts, so I can’t have too much goop on me anyhow. So why are there so many of those stupid things there?» I snagged a tissue one-handedly, being unwilling to let go of the pillow. I blew my nose, delicately, like a frickin’ girl should; I almost hadn't stopped myself from using the back of my hand, and so, almost brained myself on that big clunky bracelet I had on. I tossed the used tissue at – and deliberately not in – my wastebasket, a tall tube with something about Queen Nefertiti on it, instead of the Redskins one that my uncle gave me. «It’s probably in B-4’s room,» I groused. I leaned over and grabbed a few more tissues, and snorted, hard, into one. Not hearing the loud honk my deviated septum produces, I felt along my nose. No deviation here; I wondered if it was another glorious difference of being a girl, or if I’d gotten my parents to get an operation for it. Either way, it was just another difference irritating the piss out of me, just like that hour-and-eight minutes – I glanced at the clock to confirm –of time still nagging at me. Why is it nagging at me? I don’t know how to put on makeup, and if I’m going to be crying my brains out more, I don’t want to. Scratch that, even if I were dry-eyed forever after this, I still wouldn’t want to. For that matter, why the heck am I so pale? My parents aren’t this pale, maybe some cousins are, but still, what the heck gives? I punched the pillow and hugged it, not so much for comfort, but because I didn’t have anyone conveniently nearby to strangle in a similar manner.
After a while, I started fantasizing smacking around that weirdo with the lights. I imagined coyly peeking at him, batting my eyelashes at him, while getting close enough to leap up and slap the silliness right out of him. I wanted to smack him so hard his mom would say “Ow!” I wished I had heels on, just so I could stab his feet in with them.« Next time,» I promised myself, «next time.» I moped around a bit more and hugged the pillow. It really was a comfy pillow for hugging. I wished it were a guy instead, nice firm muscles and strong arms to hug me back…. I heard the needle-ripped-off-the-record noise in my head: a guy to hug? Geez, stupid girl hormones! I quit hugging the pillow, shove-threw it back into place, hopped off of the bed, picked up the dumb tissues and threw them in the trash, then went to stand in front of my dresser to see what sort of stupid cosmetics I had to deal with.
I looked at my glaring, pouting visage in the mirror, first just to survey my lashes and brows (they looked fine to me, and I didn’t feel like dealing with “mass-scarier” along with contacts), then just checking myself out. «Yes, I know I only have forty-seven minutes left, I can even see the clock behind me. What a worthless waste of mental energy, to tell me what time it is when I have clocks all over the place!» Even pissed off and annoyed, I still looked cute, and not cute-to-my-relatives-only, but genuinely cute. I stuck my tongue out at my reflection, which looked just as cute. I put my hands on my hips and put another gripe on my list – I just now decided that I was making a list of all the things I hated about this change, just because it seemed more productive than weeping my little girly eyes out – nice skirts don’t have pockets for your hands…. Then I saw the obvious left pocket at my crotch, yanked my skirt a quarter-turn around my hips, jammed my hands in my pockets, and changed my list entry to “stupid girl clothes” instead. Once the clock-in-my-head went to forty-three minutes left, I added “stupid self-absorbing cuteness” to the list after it.
Sighing, I looked down at the mushroom patch of cosmetics sitting on the dresser top. I saw some promising “Dusky Rose” blush, and what looked like a fat lipstick tube by it. I twisted the tube, and the cap pulled back to reveal a blush brush instead. I jabbed it in the blush and took a couple of swipes at my cheeks with it, just enough to put some color on my cheekbones, to match the slowly fading red of my cheeks. I replaced the stuff, and looked for some lip gloss. Then, sneering first, I grabbed the strap to an envelope-sized purse hanging on the corner of the mirror, opened it, and found a pen-sized tube of something marked “lip stain.” It said “lip” on it, so I shrugged and put some on. It put enough color in my lips to look less washed out, but not so much as to look like a clown. Whoo-hoo, success. Success enough for me, anyway. I went and got my blouse on, and grumbled at my inner timekeeper about how I had over a half-hour to play with. Then I looked at the chair the blouse had been on and noticed something else to grumble about – and put on my list.
I had one of those stupid, pickpocket-delighting, “cute” mini-backpack purses! Gah! I jammed my hand under my jaw to keep myself from reflexively sticking a finger down my throat. Well, looking closer at it, it looked to be an actual daypack, with a pouch in the back for my wallet. My white-with-golden-brass-trim girl wallet, which looked just like one my mom would own. I opened it and received another shocker; in a convenient side pouch by my Drivers’ License, I found my student ID. For some reason, of the three main universities in the whole state, I was going to the one that my dad did not get a degree from, the one on the other side of the state from here. «The other side of the state; methinks someone’s little girl is trying to be her own woman. Just one more bit of information to show that learning anything about what’s going on in this wacked-out corner of the universe is going to be “a big pain in the buttocks”, as Forrest Gump would say.» I noticed that the school colors were blue and white; «Well, that explains my wardrobe.» Also, the (blue) pack had the school’s name and symbol near the bottom of it, just like on my ID. Inside I found my school books, and better yet, a semester schedule, including my major (Electrical Engineering) and residence (Bunyan Hall, 207W). Strangely, also in my pack was a script for a musical, my favorite musical ever, “My Fair Lady.” I reflexively looked around, sure I’d see some cameras on me if I looked carefully enough. « Okay, now I know I’m dreaming, because there’s no reason why I would have a play script with my name on it, for the lead in my favorite musical, since I’ve never done any acting or singing other than in church! I don’t even sing in front of my friends!»
I put it back, and grabbed the pack – oof! Thirty pounds of engineering books are heavy enough when you’re seven times their weight; when you’re only four times their weight, they’re a Klutzy Nerd comedy scene waiting to happen. I was reminded of a friend of mine in…the school I used to go to…who is roughly my…current…size. «When I get back, I’ll have to make sure she has a steady boyfriend to carry her books for her; it’s no joke when you’re this, er, petite. » Instead, I pulled out the script and wallet, put the latter in the purse and left my room. Well, I almost left; I stopped with the door open, turned back and got a stack of mini-Post-Its® for my purse, too. «Now I know why Mom carries a Tote bag around; I’d rather carry a backpack, but they weren’t as popular thirty-five years ago.»
Outside my room, I met L.L. “Did you want to go in early?” I asked.
“ Actually, I guess I need to put the top down, but I was wondering, would you mind if I drove the car in? I promise you can bring it home, but….” I have to admit, the kid was smooth, she looked almost bashful about asking.
“You want to drive with the top down? I wonder if we’ll get to choir at all…”
“Well, I have to be there, so we won’t be late, and it’s just a few months before I get my Permit and we’ll be doing it this way legally. Besides, with all of my four-wheeler experience, I drive a stick better than you anyway.”
« Stick? Ooh, crap, the guy in “Farnham’s Freehold” was used to driving a stick; I can do it, but I’m used to automatics. It’s funny that I’m more of a “girly” driver as a guy. It’s funnier that my younger sister is manlier still. Maybe I should bring that back pack; I could use the extra weight for when she hits those hills and rills on the main road…» “Well, I guess I have had it all through school.”
“Yeah, and I need to get used to it when I get it next year…”
“Get used to it? I thought you were already such a hot-shot driver?” I smiled for real, to soften the bite of the remark, and opened the purse…my purse, now.
“…ah, well I meant –“
“Eh, don’t worry, I was just kidding around with you…here,” I said, after pulling the key from my purse. She snatched it from my hand so fast that I looked at my fingers to make sure they hadn’t caught fire. L.L. kissed me on the cheek, looked at me curiously, shrugged, and zipped down the hallway to get the car ready.
By the time I got outside, L.L. was buzzing around the back of the car to finish undogging the lock levers to take the top down. Seeing the car, I didn’t quite get why she was so big on driving it. It was an old Mazda RX-7, from the nineties, painted a conservative dark green. It looked sporty, but I was frankly wondering why JoJo even had it. Then what L.L. said nagged at me; « She thinks she’s getting this car when she turns sixteen? There must be something special about it, otherwise she would’ve just got it then, wouldn’t she? I’ve heard they’re good cars from somewhere, but I don’t remember where.»
L.L. finished undoing the latches, and got my help to loosen the top from its place. «Whoa, I can see why I would leave it on, that’s kind of a two-man…or –woman job to – yow!» L.L. got the top up and lifted it by herself, to go into a clever compartment in the front part of the trunk. It looked like there should have been a way to install something to do it itself, but either it rusted away, or (more likely, I guess) L.L. may have done some tinkering with it to make it easier to remove by hand. I got the feeling that, keys regardless, this was really L.L.’s car, and I was just using it until she came of age. I just tried to stay out of the way while L.L. went buzzing around the thing like a girl in love…with a car. « Well it is green, so I guess it being L.L.’s eventually, fits. I’ll have to practice in the parking lot while L.L.’s busy, so I can at least shift it into second without herky-jerking all over the place.»
Finished with the transformation, and duffle bag sitting on the bare-looking back bench, L.L. giggled, kissed me on the other cheek, buckled up while advising me to do the same, and turned the key. I felt the engine purring through the floorboards, but it wasn’t particularly loud, which I appreciated. I prefer cars that are quiet and powerful to loud and flashy. Then she backed out of the driveway, popped across the cul-de-sac to our neighbors’, stuck it into drive…and drove.
I’ll admit, once she started driving the thing, I understood why L.L. was giggling so much, and why I tolerated tooling around in such a bare-bones thing. It was a fast, responsive thing. I think I started giggling a little, too, as L.L. crept downhill at ten miles-an-hour past the mini-sac behind ours, then goosed it to forty in about a second-and-a-half, tearing out of our neighborhood to the main road.