MOD NOTE: Another one by my old friend:) Hope all enjoy!
Something was creeping up Evan's leg, something insectile, something with horrid little legs that made his skin crawl. He wasn't sure what it could be, but the micro-movements of his leg hair confirmed that it was there. He knew something like this would happen; nothing good ever came from spending the day outside, but he was not about to miss the chance to see his little sister's track meet, not when he saw so little of her. Work kept him busy and made the hour drive back to his home town a tricky prospect on most days, so he was making the best of the opportunity while he had it, even if it meant braving a slightly chilly spring day. The bug was persistent, he had to give it that. Its six spindly legs tickled their way up his shin at a glacial speed, inch by inch, step by step, making him squirm in his seat. He brushed at his pant leg, hoping the pest would give up on its trek, but his relief only lasted a moment. All he managed to do was embolden his tormentor. It made Evan begin to worry about what exactly was pestering him. The cool air and lack of standing water probably ruled out a mosquito, which would otherwise be the most likely suspect. An ant also seemed likely—hopefully a black one—the red ones bite after all. The idea of something biting him made him worry even more. What if the intruder had eight legs instead of six? Oh god, it was probably a spider searching for warmth. His arachnophobia spiked. The world became dark. There was nothing but Evan and the arachnid on his leg. His pulse quickened. Nausea gripped his stomach, threatening to rip it right out of his torso. He was going to die right here, right now, and all because he was trying to be a good brother. This might seem an irrational thought to a rational person, but Evan's preternatural paranoia made it clear that the spider on his leg could only be one species—the brown recluse. Of all the spiders he could imagine attacking him, it was the one he feared the most. Black widows advertise themselves with the bright red hourglass on their bodies, but a brown recluse, well, how was he supposed to get close enough to see the fiddle on their backs? Thus all brown spiders were brown recluses to him and since many spiders were brown, that meant that the fiddle-backed monstrosities were lurking everywhere, waiting to kill him. He was so stricken by this thought, that it took him a moment to notice when the tickling sensation from his right leg moved to his left as well. There was more than one. There was an entire horde of spiders out to get him. The hair on his legs wiggled and itched as if a wave of spiders was crawling up his calves. And then he felt them on his arms, and between his legs, and all across his chest. Everywhere that Evan had body hair, the spiders took up residence.
“Oh! Oh god! Get them off! Get them off!”
Evan screamed as he leaped to his feet. He frantically tossed off his over-sized black hoodie and began to slap and rub at his exposed arms, trying desperately to remove the eight-legged freaks that were attacking him. With each swipe across his arm hair came loose and spiraled up into the air, leaving smooth skin behind. As the hair vanished from his arms, he gained a small measure of relief. His invisible attackers were disappearing with his hair, so he knew what he needed to do. His fingers moved quickly to his belt buckle, unfastening it. However, before he could get his pants down he was broadsided by a pair of strong arms and tackled to the ground.
“Hold him still!” An older man's voice shouted.
“I'm trying,” another breathed into Evan's ear, “he's stronger than he looks.”
“No, no, no! I have to get rid of them!”
Evan pleaded as he struggled in the stronger man's arms. The twin pythons constricted around his chest, held his arms at his sides, and made him feel small for the first time in his life. It was a foreign feeling for Evan, who required both parts of the big and tall section when shopping for clothes. The man holding him must have been a being of Herculean size and strength to be able to wrap his arms around him the way that he did. Once again, Evan retreated into his mind, and felt the world outside of this man's arms vanish. All that was left was the sense that his ribs were being crushed. The fact that the itching had stopped during his struggles, or that the parents around him were questioning whether he was on drugs or just a pervert completely escaped him. He knew he had to escape the behemoth that held him captive, but the throbbing in his ribs was spreading. It pushed into his chest, and then into his shoulders; down his arms, and into his hands. It filled his head, and threatened to pop his eyeballs out like ripe grapes. It traveled to his legs, his feet, and even down to the tips of his toes, even though the man's grip could not have possibly crushed those parts of him. It consumed him, compacted him, but nowhere did it hurt worse than his abdomen. There, his innards were being turned into paste, ready to be squeezed out of the tube that was his body.
“Y-you're crushing me!”
Evan squeaked out the words in a tone that he did not immediately recognize as his own voice. He sounded meek and almost childlike, but what could one expect from their vocal chords when they were being squashed? Fortunately for the nearly crushed Evan, the words performed their job marvelously, despite their tone. The giant's grip slackened and breath returned to Evan's lungs. However, he was not going to be content with a single breath. He had had enough flight for the day and it was time for a little fight. Evan thrust his head back, right into his captor's nose, doing to it what he had felt had been done to the rest of his body.
“Son of a bitch!” The man shouted. His hands flew to his nose to stanch the flow of blood.
Evan was free. He rolled to the side of the man and lurched to his feet. It was a surprisingly nimble move for someone whose body had recently been put through so much pain, but Evan felt nothing as he did it. It wasn't until he was fully upright that he was aware that anything was wrong with him. His brain was not quite as ready as the rest of him to be alive again and it rebelled. He staggered about as the blood returned to his head, and for the first time became aware of the commotion he had created. There was a murmur moving through the crowd, starting with those closest to him and growing softer as those further away took notice of the scene. The onlookers were trying to be polite, trying to keep their hands over their mouths and speaking in a whisper, but a few were so surprised by what they saw that they could not hold back their gasps.
“He looks like a—,” a small girl started to say before her mother clamped her hand over the child's mouth.
“What happened to him? What did you do?”
“I didn't do anything! I was just holding him. You think I could do that?!”
Nervous sweat speckled Evan's forehead. He was too dizzy to take stock of his appearance, to see if perhaps he had a tree branch sticking out of his side or some other catastrophic injury, but he knew that his body was wrong. The way that his weight shifted with each step was wrong. Overall, he felt lighter, but his hips moved as if they carried more of the load. His clothing seemed looser on his body as well, though with his head still swimming, he did not trust the thought. He remembered unbuckling his belt. That would explain why his pants were beginning to slough off like loose skin.
“What are you all staring at?!” He yelled at the crowd.
Hearing his voice again, this time unfettered, filled him with dread. He clasped at his throat with both hands and stared wide-eyed at looks on peoples' faces. He paid particular attention to the man with the bloody nose, whom he now recognized as Mr. Holt, his childhood neighbor, and the father of his sister's best friend. Mr. Holt was about as far away from a monster as a person could get. He was strongly built, but very short, one of those guys that when you saw them you could almost be sure they had a Napoleon complex. This was not the type of person that could wrap his arms around a man twice his size. But stranger things had happened. For one, there was Evan's voice coming out in a soft alto, a voice that was unmistakably feminine, but not that of a full grown woman. It still had the undertones of immaturity that one would expect from a teenage girl.
“What's happening to me?” He said, barely above a whisper.
No one answered directly, but their whispers told Evan all he needed to know. He was right in the middle of a Schrodinger conundrum. Until he looked, he couldn't be one hundred percent sure that his body had indeed changed the way his voice had. But he had to look eventually. It seemed a near impossibility that he could go through life never seeing an inch of his own body, and then there was the issue of touching it as well. Even if he didn't look, the first time he took a shower, or went to the bathroom he would be forced to admit he had changed, and that was if he could even make it that long. His pants were pooled around his ankles, as they had apparently become too big to stay up while unfastened, so he would more than likely see or touch some part of his body in just pulling them back up. Avoidance was becoming too much of a burden, so he looked. He held his hand up in front of his face and turned it side to side. The proof was staring right at him in the form of slender fingers with tidy, manicured tips, all attached to a now delicate hand. His gaze took a trip down his arm, which was now more slight with only the lightest of downy hair upon it. Arms connected to narrow shoulders which in turn were connected to a svelte form, toned in the way the girls at the track meet were. His waist tapered in, leaving him with a flatter stomach than he had ever had as a man, though it was still not entirely clear if he had ceased to be one. The pair of shapely hips, while not wide enough to keep his pants up, certainly argued for a one way trip to femininity, as did his legs, which had become long and coltish. They were porcelain-toned and sleek, looking more like they belonged on a doll than on any sort of real person. However, even with those legs ending in a pair of dainty feet that no longer fit his shoes, he lacked a few of a woman's primary sexual characteristics. Namely, he had no breasts, and he could still feel his manhood stirring in his boxers.
“It's not that bad, right?” He asked, whimpering like a puppy dog left out in the rain.
His stomach gurgled, leaving ripples in its wake across the surface of his skin. Color drained from his face. There was more to come. That same feeling of foreboding he had with the spiders and then again when he was being crushed was returning. His mind wanted to retreat, to imagine there was something alien inside of him if only to make sense of the changes ready to take place, but with his body looking the way it now did, he fought it. He pushed at the dark walls trying to deny him clarity. If what was inside of him was going to further rob him of his masculinity he wanted to know what was happening. But as the bubbling feeling in his abdomen traveled lower and decided to make a home in his pelvic mound he could not help but feel faint. Soon, his dick was behaving erratically, flopping back and forth like a fish tail as it burrowed between his legs, dragging his deflating sack with it. The vacuousness it left behind was devastating.
“I think I'm going to be sick...” Evan's last words were swallowed by the ether as his knees buckled.
As the crowd pressed forward to get a better look, the parents who had first witnessed Evan's outburst formed a tight circle around his crumpled form. The protective barrier both shielded Evan from the students and their cell phones as well as kept any small children from getting too close, but there were still those that were curious enough to try to shove their way through. After all, who wouldn't want to see the man that now had the face of a teenage girl? He, or she, as the case now was, had full lips that looked as soft as rose petals. Her nose was small and straight, like that of a Greek goddess. And with her high cheekbones, the beauty of her heart-shaped face was hard to deny.
“Evan!” A young girl screamed from somewhere near the back of the crowd. “Let me through, that's my brother!”
Lilly jumped to look over the heads of those taller than her, hoping to find a path through the throng of people. With each leap her lengthy ponytail bounced and flailed above her head, at times looking like a rabbit's ears scanning for danger. She would have to squeeze through the crowd to get to her brother, so for once she was glad that she was a late bloomer. Her small frame easily wedged between the less polite members of the mob as she forced her way to her brother. She ducked under elbows and threw a few of her own—anything to get to her family member. When she finally reached the front of the crowd, she found Mr. Holt, with tissue paper stuffed in his nostrils, guarding her brother's body.
“You have to let me see him, Mr. Holt.” She looked the short man in the eyes, pleading with him.
“I'm not going to stop you, Lilly, but well...” His downcast eyes showed his shame. Somehow he thought that he had not done enough to help the young man. “I'm not sure how much you saw or heard, but he's changed quite a bit. I just don't want you to be too shocked when you see.”
“Thank you, but I'll be fine.” She stepped around her friend's father, preparing for the worst. She had been warming up for her race when the screaming started, so she had not seen a thing. She didn't even know that Evan was involved, or was the one that got hurt, until she overheard a few of her teammates whispering what they had heard from other members of the crowd. Despite her reassurance, the little bit of information she had didn't prepare her for the figure that lay before her.
“Oh my god, he looks like—” She clasped both hands over her mouth.
She wanted to say that he looked like her, but the initial impression that she was seeing her own reflection seemed wrong somehow. There was still a familiarity to Evan's face, but it was as if someone had taken all the flaws that she saw in herself and airbrushed them away. Her own nose was wider and flatter, for instance, and while Evan still looked young, there was also a maturity to her face that Lilly herself did not have. They still shared the same complexion, the same black coffee colored hair that ran in their family, and she fully expected if the girl in front of her had her eyes open they would have the same pearly blue irises. She never, for even a second, tried to tell herself that the girl was anybody other than Evan. The family resemblance was too strong.
Lilly knelt down at her brother's side and delicately lifted her head into her lap. With their parents both working long hours, she was the only one that could take care of her brother, so she wanted to be the first face that Evan saw when she awoke. She cradled her now female brother's head and stroked her hair, marveling at how soft it had become. Evan had always had short hair, but as her sister petted her, a phantom stylist reworked the short hair into a pixie cut, something far more suitable for her effeminate features.
“Oh god, she's changing again.” A concerned mother muttered, before quickly turning to panic. “Lilly, get away from her! What if she's contagious?”
“Contagious? You think this is a disease?” Lilly snapped back irately. “What exactly is it that you think is going to happen to me? Do you think I'm suddenly going to grow a dick just because I'm touching his head? He's my brother and he needs me. I don't really give a flying fuck what happens to me!”
“Sorry, Mr. Holt. It's just...” She glanced over her brother's body again. “I don't see how this could possibly be some kind of disease. I'm only fifteen and even I know that a person's body changing like this defies physics. Besides, it's not like there's a disease that would make a man spontaneously grow breasts.”
And they did grow. Twin puffy peaks emerged beneath the logo of Evan's t-shirt as her pecs morphed into pubescent breasts. The swelling continued unabated for several minutes, her body becoming a machine, redistributing leftover pockets of fat into the girl's chest. Her new breasts wobbled as the process finished, leaving her with two halves of a grapefruit under her top. Those soft orbs now represented the complete and total loss of her virility. The consensus of the crowd seemed to be that they had just witnessed something they shouldn't have, almost like they had just walked in on their parents having sex. Lilly focused intently on her lap and her brother's head upon it. Mr. Holt turned his back to the scene either to allow for some privacy, or because there was something he wanted to hide. But the panicked mother had a moral code that would make Helen Lovejoy weep in praise. There were scared children around and they deserved answers.
“Hello? Are we just going to let it go at that?” The mother spoke up as people all around her were turning their heads, keeping to themselves. “There's a teenage girl lying on the ground that was a man an hour ago. Does nobody else want to know what in God's name is going on here?”
“Um, excuse me, but I couldn't help but overhear your little discussion,” an old, weedy man with a professorial air spoke up, “and not to be rude, but I would hazard that God doesn't have a lick to do with what's going on.”
“How could you possibly know that?” The incensed woman asked incredulously.
“Oh, well, I don't exactly know, but this isn't exactly God's way of doing things, is it? At least it's not what I would expect from our modern interpretation of God. If we were polytheists, well, that's another thing. There are plenty of stories scattered throughout ancient myth about wrathful gods transforming mortals for a variety of reasons. Let's look at Tiresias for example...” The professor droned on until he was cut off.
“Get to the point.”
The professor paused, produced a small white cloth from some hidden pocket inside his sweater vest, and then slowly cleaned his bifocals. The moment of respite was sorely needed so that he could collect himself and begin again.
“Very well.” He sighed, taken aback by the temerity of the woman. “We know that something beyond our understanding happened here today, but our own modern beliefs make it improbable that what we consider God was involved. Therefore, we have to allow for the possibility that other forces could be at work. And I think if you look to the works of Tolkien, Lewis, or Rowling you might have an explanation.”
“Are you saying that you think it was—?” Lilly jumped into the conversation.
“Sorcery,” the professor stated flatly, “and I suspect that I'm not the only one that was thinking it either. It sounds absurd because we've been taught that magic is something we only find in books, but after what we all just witnessed, how can we deny that something so extraordinary could exist? So yes, whether you want to call it magic, witchcraft, or even the work of the Devil, I think sorcery is the most likely culprit.”
“Okay, so, for the sake of argument let's assume magic is real.” Mr. Holt said as he pinched the bridge of his broken nose. “What could possess a person to do such a thing?”
“Boredom, revenge, a twisted sense of justice. It could be anything. There's very little we can do to figure out the why without knowing the who behind it.” The old man opined. “Lilly, your brother was the victim here. Can you think of anyone that would want to harm him?”
“...” Lilly hesitated, feeling the eyes of those around her ready to scrutinize her every word. “I don't know. No, I don't think so... Evan doesn't live around here anymore, and I don't see him that often. He only just arrived last night. I don't think he's even talked to anyone since he got here.”
“Actually...” The nervous mother chimed in. “That new girl's mother was talking to him a couple of hours ago.”
“Which new girl? Hazel?” Lilly asked warily.
The woman nodded.
“Girls! Has anyone seen Hazel or her mother?” Mr. Holt called out to Lilly's teammates.
There was no response. And while a group of teenagers might be expected to be indifferent to anything asked by an adult, it was peculiar to be met with almost complete silence. No whispers, no murmurs, not a single lewd comment about Evan's condition—everything that had been buzzing through the mob had suddenly stopped. No one was texting, or tweeting, or tapping away on their phones. There was not even a child asking their mother if they could go home. It was so quiet that Lilly felt like she and the three adults that had helped her were the only ones there. But the masses had not yet dispersed. They remained where they had been the entire time, watching Lilly tend to her brother.
The stillness of the crowd was the first sign that something was amiss. Line by line they stood motionless, suspended in the aspic of the world, always staring forward with their frozen expressions. They were dolls posed by some other worldly hand, simulating what their human selves had been doing moments before. Students, parents, teachers, children, even a small dog—no one was spared except for the four at Evan's side. It was the professor that made the decision to investigate, which was fine with the others. Lilly's heart was about to leap right out of her mouth. She took Evan's hand and squeezed it, holding it like it was her only lifeline to remain in this world. The sweat on Mr. Holt's forehead and the anxious way that the woman scanned the crowd assured her that they were panicking just as much as she was. The eldest of them was the only one brave enough to inspect the stock-still crowd, but even he moved cautiously as he approached the closest of the the living mannequins.
“Be careful.” Lilly squeaked, barely above a whisper.
Snap. Snap. Snap.
Three times the professor snapped in front of a petrified woman's eyes. She didn't blink. She remained rigid, her eyes downcast, her mouth hidden behind a hooked finger. The professor pressed his middle and index fingers against her neck, just to the right of her windpipe. He waited. His brow furrowed in bewilderment. Gently—as if he worried the young woman might be made of glass—he closed his hand around her wrist, and then, taking the utmost care, coaxed her fingers away from her face. Her arm bent stiffly, much like the soft vinyl-covered joints of a Barbie doll, but it moved enough to give him access to her nose and mouth. Without skipping a beat, the old man slipped off his bifocals, folded them, and then held them up to the woman's lips. Once again, he waited. Time languidly stretched out. It was in no hurry to grant the man any answers.
“Mr. Holt, what's taking him so long?” Lilly asked, disquiet in her voice.
“I don't know. I think he's checking to make sure they're still breathing. Maybe he's doing it wrong.”
Or maybe they're not breathing. It was patently clear that the thought was rattling around the track mom's head. She never once gave the professor's examination more than a glance. Instead, she paced up and down the human diorama, searching, her body rising up on the tips of her toes like a meerkat each time she stopped. Each foray into the crowd was deeper than the last, and she seemed to be getting more and more frantic by the second.
“Please make her stop! She's freaking me out.”
“She's just worried about her kids, Lilly—the same as I am, the same as you are with your brother.”
“I know, but she's still freaking me out.” She complained. “They both are. She's running around like a chicken and he's standing so still that you'd think he—oh!”
The professor had joined the ranks of the frozen.
“Mrs. Cruz!” Lilly called out. “Come back! It's not safe out there!”
The desperate woman ignored her, or at least that's what it seemed like from Lilly's perspective. The woman apprehensively glanced at her for the briefest of moments, but then like a dog that had been scolded by its master, she slunk away, disappearing among the army of dolls. Mr. Holt nearly followed.
“I should go get her...”
Lilly snatched his pant leg and tugged insistently.
“You can't leave me alone!”
Holt sighed. There was his daughter's best friend—a girl that he had known since she was five—on her knees pleading with him, and he couldn't even muster a smile to reassure her that he wasn't going anywhere. His arms dropped to his sides. He was battered, bloodied, and facing an inescapable fate, but someone still needed him. Surely, even as useless as he felt at that moment, he could at least assuage this girl's fears just by keeping her company. All he had to do was stand still—perfectly still, as still as a redwood rooted to that one spot for millennia. The idea relaxed him, promised him the most restful sleep he had ever experienced. All he had to do was give in. His eyes drooped, and the most peculiar smell wafted across his nose. It was rich, sweet, and comforting in a way that reminded him of childhood.
“Do you smell fudge?” He asked with a goofy grin.
And then he was gone. Lilly watched horror-struck as his pupils rolled back into his head and his eyelids closed. He was just another sleeper now and she was all alone. The urge to curl up into a ball and hide until the world took care of her problems was all but impossible to resist. If it wasn't for the girl still breathing steadily in her lap, she may have given in. But she still had Evan. Sure, she was fast asleep, but she hadn't turned to stone like the rest. That meant something. Lilly didn't want to think about what it would be like for her brother if she woke up and saw everyone standing as still as gravestones.
“It's time for me to be brave, isn't it?” She said, staring into her brother's angelic face. “Don't worry, Evan. I'll get us both out of here.”
Sadly, the sentiment and Lilly's actual ability to carry out her promise were at odds. Her brother, though diminished in size, was still heavier than she was. She propped Evan up into a seated position, but the girl was dead weight. It made her wish that she had chosen shot put as her event rather than long-distance running. She needed another option. Trying to wake her brother was one, but if she couldn't even handle changing genders without passing out, what was the likelihood that she would stay conscious with an even grimmer fate awaiting her? She had to at least try to move Evan, though she was unsure where she could take her that would actually be safe. She slipped her arms under her brother's shoulders and with a little heft, began to drag her away from the track and towards the school. It was not even half a minute before she hit a literal snag. Evan's foot was stuck, and when she glanced up to figure out the cause, she was aghast to see Mr. Holt standing there with a vacant expression and his hand wrapped around her brother's ankle.
“Let go! You can't have him!”
The zombified man was oblivious to her pleas, and without offering so much as a grunt he wrenched the prone girl right out of Lilly's arms, sending the teen tumbling to the dirt. The next thing she saw was Evan slumped lifelessly over Mr. Holt's shoulder as he carried her away, his hunched form and plodding gait reminding her of Frankenstein's monster. And he was not the only one ambling about in grotesque fashion. The once frozen dolls shared his hunched appearance, arms drooping in front of them, heads bowed. They were pink elephants on parade, forming a herd as they loitered about the school grounds.
Enough was enough. Lilly had far exceeded her quota for weird shit for the day. She pushed herself up and raced after Mr. Holt, weaving through the sleepwalkers as if they were nothing.
“Mr. Holt! Give me back my b—”
Lilly's words escaped her. The exhausted teen slowed as she reached the track, and then stopped as she watched the puppeteered man carefully lay Evan's body upon the soft high jumper's mat near the edge of the field. Suddenly she was baffled as to why she had been so concerned about her sister being in the arms of her friend's dad. She struggled to collect her thoughts as the mummer's show continued around her. Parents were going back to their seats, coaches returned to the sidelines, and her fellow athletes meandered back to where their individual events were taking place. The more things appeared as they had earlier that afternoon, the blurrier Lilly's recollection of the last couple of hours became. And before long she was wondering why she was standing in the middle of the track at all. She needed to stretch and do her warm-ups before the start of the 1500m.
Reality crackled as Lilly took her place with her teammates again. All memories of the day's events became static in the heads of the witnesses, not that they would have any reason to question the loss of two hours of their lives, for already something new was growing in their place.
* * *
“Don't move, sweetie. You fell on your head.”
Evan groaned as he was roused from the fainting spell. His arms twisted and bent, trying to fight off the grogginess from his long nap. An unfamiliar voice insisted that he stay still. It was soft and buttery in a way that made him feel totally at ease, but he ignored it all the same. He couldn't get over how unusual his body felt—too slight for the weight he normally carried, almost Lilliputian in comparison. Of course there was a good reason for his incongruous figure. It was not as if he had forgotten the ordeal he had gone through. He was a girl now, and one with a rather gamine shape. If his mind had not yet caught up with what his body felt like, it was no surprise. There was hardly a chance for him to process the change before it became too much for him. And now that he had a minute, he just wanted to lie there and be left alone, to sink into the spongy embrace of the bed someone must have placed him on. If not for the constant urging of the woman tending to him, he might have been able to do just that too.
His eyes flicked open and were met with a face the shade of toasted almond, framed by a lion's mane of black curls. The owner of the face was pretty, perhaps a few years older than himself, someone he may have even tried to ask out if he could go back in time. She was dressed in a dark green polo shirt with GSHS stitched in blocky letters above her breast. One of the track coaches, perhaps.
“I don't know you.” Evan stated brusquely. “Leave me alone.”
“Miss Turner, now is not the time to joke around.” The woman said. “You could have had a serious head injury. Everyone was worried about you.”
Her tone was surprising, far more authoritative than Evan imagined the woman could manage. It made him feel as small inside as he did outside.
“I'm sorry, Coach Golden, It's just... I'm not feeling too much like myself today.”
Where had that come from? Evan was dumbstruck by the words that he'd spoken. seconds ago he had no clue who this woman was and now he was not only speaking her name, but felt as if he was a disappointment to her as well. Why did he want to make such a good impression with her?
“You're forgiven, considering what you've been through, but mind your manners the next time someone is showing concern for you.” The coach smiled at him after the stern warning, her tone softening again. “Now, how are you feeling, sweetie? Do you have a headache? Ears ringing?”
She was probing to see if he had a concussion, wasn't she? There was always the possibility that he did; he had many of the symptoms—confusion, memory loss, disorientation, depression, irritability. Unfortunately, writing the day off as the result of a concussion was not so easy. The more physical symptoms just weren't there, and what kind of head trauma would he have to have to concoct such a strange day?
“No, none of that. I'm fine, really...”
“Well, I suppose I don't have to call a stretcher over then, but I still think you should take the rest of the day off for precautionary reasons. Go have a seat on the bench with the other girls.”
Coach Golden helped Evan to his feet, giving him his first opportunity to really take stock of everything. The spongy bed turned out to be the school's high jump pit—not really a surprise, he'd have to be a real idiot to think he was in bed, outside, at a high school track meet. The way he was dressed was a little more of a shock. He was wearing a black, green, and white track singlet with BULLFROGS printed across the chest along with a pair of matching shorts that exposed his coltish legs from about the middle of the thigh. The uniform was oddly familiar, feeling perfectly natural against his skin like a timeworn shirt that had become as close as a friend over the years. Perhaps that was why he was just now noticing that his clothing changed. It also helped explain why the coach had been treating him like he was one of the girls on the team—in her eyes, that's exactly what he was, not just a girl, but a girl that was close to her. What had happened while he was unconscious that someone he'd never met now had memories of him as a girl?
The opportunity to explore those thoughts vanished before he even made it to the bench, as his sister was standing there waiting for him with an anxious look in her eyes.
“Evie, are you okay? You looked really out of it.”
“I'm fine.” Evan said a bit flatly.
He took a seat on the bench and shivered, trying to fight back the the sense of loss that now assaulted him again. His own sister thought he was a girl. What was the probability that anybody remembered who he had been if his own family member was calling him by a different name? It was such a small thing to say too—he hadn't asked if she remembered him, but somehow he knew that everything about his old life had vanished. What had he done to deserve such a thing? Sure, he hadn't made the best use of his time on Earth—most of his free time was spent playing video games, he rarely talked to his friends outside of Facebook, and he had a job that was menial when one considered his intelligence—but that was no reason to rob him of his name. Tears flooded his eyes and streamed down his cheeks in little tributaries, and once the waterworks started, the strength to hold the rest inside disappeared as well. He buried his face in his miserably delicate hands and began to sob uncontrollably.
“Aw, Sis! You're clearly not fine.” Lilly draped a grey hoodie around her sister's shoulders as she sat next to the crying girl. “What's wrong?”
Could it be that your sister used to be your brother, but he can't tell you that because you wouldn't believe him if he did? Or maybe it was the fact that he was afraid that his existence was in peril? He'd already lost his body and his life as he knew it; what was going to go next? It was all of those things, but most of all it was that SHE just wanted to be left alone with her thoughts for a while to try to find some positive in an overwhelmingly negative day, and to figure out how she was going to make it to the next day. But she couldn't say any of that, so instead she said it was...
“Bullshit!” Lilly fired back. “You're always doing this. You put on this tough act like nothing phases you, try to be strong when we both know you're hurting inside, and I know you're doing it for my benefit. You want to be a good role model, but you're only two years older than me, Evie! For once in your life why can't you admit that deep down inside you're nothing but a scared teenage girl like the rest of us?”
The words were like daggers to her heart. Another torrent of tears cascaded down her cheeks as she curled up even tighter into the over-sized sweatshirt and leaned against her sister for support. But soon Lilly was not the only one there trying to support her. Well-wishers in the form of her teammates began to circle her, ask her what was wrong, ask how they could help. They squeezed her shoulders, or went a step further and hugged her while she continued to sob, and somehow their camaraderie helped. She wiped away her tears and looked at the faces of the girls around her. There was Jenna Cruz, Olivia Holt, and Hazel Baker—all of them there for her, because they were her friends. They all knew her and somehow she knew them as well. Jenna had been her best friend since middle school, ever since they started running track together. Olivia was her neighbor, Lilly's best friend, and a girl she had known since she could barely walk. The two of them had big beaming smiles on their faces that let her know that everything was going to be all right. And then there was Hazel. She was new to the team this year, but even she was trying to cheer her up, even if she looked like she'd just kicked someone's puppy as she did it. Evan forced a smile and rubbed at her eyes again.
“I'm sorry, Lilly. You're right.” She sniffled. “I'm no different than anyone else here, but it's just so embarrassing...”
“Promise not to laugh, but... I invited Shane Ender to watch me jump today, and I really wanted to impress him, but then when I fell on my head...” Evie was turning bright red as she spoke. “God! He was probably laughing at me!”
Jenna slapped her friend on the shoulder, and despite Evie's request that her friends not laugh at her, she couldn't help but chuckle a little.
“Evie Turner crying over a boy!” She teased. “Never thought I'd see the day. Welcome to the club, my friend, and don't worry one bit about that little spill. Guys are pretty simple. I bet he's more concerned with how your butt looks in those shorts than he is with whether or not you broke the school high jump record.”
Evie tried to keep herself from smiling, to punish her friend for teasing her, but the corners of her mouth didn't want to obey and before long she was feeling much better. She couldn't believe how hard she had been crying over something so trivial.
“There we go! Evie's back!” Lilly shouted.
“Good, now that we're all happy people again, how about we all go to my house after this is over for a swim?” Olivia suggested. “I already cleared it with my dad before the meet.”
“Ooh, do you think we should invite Shane too?” Jenna giggled. “I'm sure he'd love to see Evie in a swimsuit.”
“Ohmygod! Shut up Jenna! I never should have told you!”
“Sorry, no boys allowed. Just give my dad a wave to let him know you're all coming.”
Mr. Holt was sitting right alongside the fence in one of those folding lawn chairs. He was one of the nicest men Evie knew, so it was strange to see him sitting there nursing a broken nose as if he had just been in a fight. She wondered how that had happened. She would have to ask Olivia about it later. She smiled at him when he looked her way and waved, and he waved back in a knowing way. She was excited to spend the rest of the evening with her friends, swimming in a heated pool, joking around, getting rid of any lingering embarrassments. It had felt like a monumental day, but as Evie looked back upon it, she realized that it was a lot like every other day of her life. Strange how the ordinary can seem so eventful, but at the end of the day she was still the same old Evie Turner and nothing was going to change that.
And as for Evan...