by Kevin Aubry

Steph analyzed the painting displayed on the wall in front of her and laughed outwardly at Mark’s trite attempt at humor.
I know, right?” she said. “I don’t get this whole modern art thing either.” Inwardly, however, she marveled at the emotions that the painting somehow evoked in her. It was dark, swirling, messy, and yet somehow… optimistic. Like the artist was trying to project a feeling of intense but temporary pain that he knew he would eventually get through. Or maybe that was just how her mind interpreted what it saw. Whatever the case, she could at least appreciate the work.
Mark moved over to the next painting, and Steph followed a step behind so she could admire his ass. A small part of her felt disgusted, but for now, she could ignore that.
They continued through the trendy, modern-looking art gallery with Mark constantly trying to impress her by criticizing each piece with snarky, unoriginal humor. She didn’t like him much, which was fine; it only made her job that much easier.
Steph was analyzing some odd pottery that looked twisted and tortured when Mark moved on to the last painting on display. He had hated everything so far, but to her surprise he called out, “Now THIS is a painting! Wow!”
What is it, sweetie?” she asked as she caught up. Then she saw it, and her surprise evaporated.
Unlike the rest of the art they had seen, which even Steph had to admit had been a bit weird, this was a very realistic portrayal of a naked woman draped across a couch in a sexy pose. And here Mark was, proclaiming loudly right in front of his supposed date how much he loved it.
Oh, yes, she was definitely going to enjoy this job. To hell with his cute ass.
They had to walk several blocks through busy city streets to get to the underground parking lot where Mark had left his BMW. He talked about the stupid painting the entire way there.
It looked more like a photograph. See, that takes talent. That is good art. That modern crap—or contemporary, whatever—a second grader could make better looking ‘art.’ Those people shouldn’t even be allowed…” He went on and on, mostly saying things he’d already said two or three times that night. Steph had to resist rolling her eyes as he rambled on.
So, where to now?” he asked Steph as he settled into the driver’s seat a few minutes later. “You hungry, or do you want to catch a show first?”
She looked at him and laughed. "Sweetie, after seeing that painting..." she leaned across the center console and brushed her lips against his ear. She loved this part, but that aggravating little part of her was horrified, just like it always was. You'd think he would have gotten used to it by now, Steph thought to herself. She nipped at Mark’s lobe and grinned at the indignant rage that swelled in the corner of her mind, and then she whispered, "What do you think I want to do?"

Mark was quiet as he drove. Steph figured he was probably afraid of ruining her mood. They were still a good twenty minutes away from Mark's place, so she decided to start getting prepared and do a final briefing with Stephen.
She knew it wasn't necessary. She--or he, rather--or they? Steph still wasn't even sure which one it was. They, she decided. They had done this a thousand times already, but regardless, she still liked to be prepared as much as possible. It made her feel a bit more in control of things.
She withdrew a large Zip-Lock bag of pills from her purse. The irritating part of her threw out feelings of amusement and annoyance. She almost rolled her eyes at herself because of the sudden outburst. Instead, she plucked out a couple of pills and swallowed them. She caught Mark glancing at her sideways.
You know how suspicious that looks, right?”
A giant bag of unmarked pills that you’re constantly taking out and popping into your mouth…”
What, are you gonna report me or something? We’ve already been over this.”
Yeah, I get it. Hormone pills, very important for whatever disorder. But why not just store them in a bottle? And do you really need that many with you, at all times?”
Steph was getting uncomfortable with the way the conversation was heading. She had to get him off the subject. “Look, sweetie, the pills should be the last thing on your mind right now.” Her hand travelled up Mark’s leg, and he kept quiet.
With the pills out of the way, she decided it was time to talk to Stephen. She reached toward the familiar, testosterone-fueled part of her mind and expanded it until it took control.
GOD I FEEL DIRTY, thought Stephen, and then the control switched back to the estrogen-driven portion of their mind where Steph reigned.
Oh get over it, she thought. You say that every time. Like you didn't see it coming? Seriously, I don't give you crap when you screw around with women.
Oh? How so?
You are such an idiot.
Yes, Stephen, I get it, alright? But we're doing it anyway. So I'll start off like always. I'm gonna have some fun with Mark, and you are going to sit through it like a mature adult. I mean really, you love watching porn, how is this any-
...How!? No, just shut up. Ok, now then. As soon as he falls asleep, I'm going to get up and go to the bathroom, then--
...And the job is?
I'll come back out crying and sobbing about how I was just too scared to come out of the bathroom. Good. And make sure you're a bit rough on "Jim." He's a real piece of shit.
Oh God, of COURSE you did!
Steph pushed Stephen back down into nothing but a small bundle of slightly annoying male emotions. She was annoyed with him right now, and wanted to be as much of a woman as she could be. She looked at Mark and begged him in a sultry voice to hurry. He responded.
She found herself reflecting on her and Stephen’s odd condition. She did that a lot. It was hard not to, considering how much of a freak she… they… were. She and Stephen were one and the same, really. They weren’t two beings trapped in one body. She thought of themselves as the male and female counterparts of one being, which had been given the name Steve at birth.
Steph wondered for the millionth time why it had been a baby boy that was born. What the hell did that make her? When had Steve first turned into Steph? How? Why? What composition of Steph and Stephen equaled the true Steve? Was there even a "Steve" anymore? Were the traits that Steph had all the “true” feminine traits, and vice versa for Stephen, or just gender-neutral traits that they happened to have? Did normal people have their own “Stephs” and “Stephens” with certain fixed traits that mixed together to form that person's personality?
Her parents had refused to talk about it, and she was terrified of talking to anyone else about it, like a therapist. What if they couldn't contain themselves and released her condition to the world? She'd seen movies. She and Stephen would be a spectacle, like circus freaks, and they'd probably get abducted by some government agency and dissected for research or something. And Stephen… He didn't even think about it. She’d asked him once, and she considered his reply to be the crown jewel of his stupidity.
"Just accept it,” he’d said. “I think it’s a gift. I always hear other guys say stuff like 'I wonder if sex feels better for women.' I know the answer, and they never will. Plus, I have free access to a nice rack whenever I want."
Steph shook her head. How in God's name could she share so much with that shallow… stupid… ridiculous… MAN!? She couldn’t think of a worse insult at the moment; man just summed it up perfectly. It was almost impossible to have any kind of conversation with him. It always degenerated into an argument within minutes. She wondered why she even called it "conversation." For lack of a better term, she supposed. They didn’t actually speak to each other, because there was no “other” to speak to. Or maybe there was? Maybe Steve was a schizo, and Steph and Stephen his two personalities. But that wouldn’t explain the physical transformation, would it?
Steph often wondered if every person was actually able to switch genders, and they just hadn’t figured it out. She toyed with the idea of making a how-to guide. “How to Meet Your Opposite Sex,” she’d call it.
Step 1: Think of a subject. Really think about it. Formulate an opinion. Any subject will work; your opposing gender will certainly disagree with whatever you come up with.
Step 2: Search your mind for your opposing gender.
  • If you’re a female, your masculine side may feel wild, chaotic, aggressive, confident, strong, independent, stubborn, impatient, prideful, assertive, and/or insensitive. The terms “shallow,” “simple minded,” and “jerk” may also come to mind.
(Steph subconsciously changed into Stephen for a moment so he could describe finding the female side)
Steph, ignoring Stephen—and her annoyance—continued on her train of thought.
Step 3: Expand your opposite side. Let it take over. Don’t worry, you will still be you, just with an outlook completely different from anything you’ve ever experienced.
Step 4: Now think of your subject again. You will notice how different your opinion is. You will wonder how you could have thought differently just a few moments before. Your other side, the side you just were, your “true” side, may be irked by the new opinion, and you will feel it wanting to take over again to counter you, to debate, to argue.
Repeat steps 1 through 4 to engage in a wonderful, insightful conversation with yourself. Enjoy your new-found perspective on life.
Steph laughed at her silly idea.
What?” asked Mark.
Nothing,” she replied. But it was something. She felt better about herself now. Stephen was right, even if the way he came to the same conclusion was so obviously wrong. What they had gave them an edge over everybody else. They could analyze things in a way that nobody else—as far as she knew—could. They really did have a gift.
Stephen stared at his nude reflection in the mirror hanging from Jim’s bathroom wall. He still couldn’t help but feel amazed and disgusted with his body every time it changed. Why was that? It had been this way all his life, but it still wasn’t normal to him. Then again, fat chicks who were fat their whole lives weren’t comfortable with their bodies, either. So maybe it isn’t so weird.
Stephen chuckled at Steph’s angry outburst. Why were women so touchy about weight? Turning away from the mirror, Stephen bent down to pick up Steph’s underwear, then withdrew a length of tough nylon paracord from a pocket on the inside. He did one final check to make sure he’d gotten all of Steph’s clothes and accessories off—he’d forgotten the earrings once, and the bastard they’d robbed, even with a gun in his face, hadn’t been able to silence his laughs.
Once he was certain he’d stripped everything off, he crept out of the bathroom and down a dark hallway. Like always, he felt an odd sense of vulnerability as he made his way through the strange house without clothes on. Why should he feel vulnerable? He was the hunter, stalking his prey.
He stopped in the entryway to Jim’s room and listened until he heard Jim snoring, then tip-toed to the bedside table where Jim kept a .45 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver. He grabbed the decorative handle that adorned the front of the drawer containing the pistol and pulled carefully. The motion was so smooth that even Stephen, crouched down with his head right next to the drawer, could barely hear the rasp of wood scraping on wood as it glided open. It was obviously well built and likely expensive, just like everything else in Jim’s giant, custom built, modern-looking hilltop mansion.
With the drawer finally open enough for his hand to fit through, he reached in and grabbed the gun, finger on the trigger, and snatched it out. Then he ripped the covers away from the bed and yelled, “Rise and Shine, Jimmy!”
Stephen’s stomach dropped. Jim was gone, and in his place was a realistic looking sex doll and a digital recorder playing back the sound of Jim’s snoring.
All at once, lights burst through the windows and men poured in from the hallway. They formed a ring around the entire room. Within moments, the barrels of at least a dozen assault rifles were pointing straight at Stephen’s torso.
Hello, Steve Fischer.”
Stephen turned towards the voice and found Jim standing in the entryway with a cocky smile on his face. He prepared his body for a fight, pushing himself as far towards masculinity as he was able. His muscles bulged. His mind screamed at him to hit something. Jim’s arrogant face seemed to Stephen like it was begging to meet with his fist. He was about to tell Jim to fuck off and lunge at him when he noticed the name he’d just used. He knew. Stephen reverted back to a more balanced mindset. If he knew, then he would have this place locked down. There was no way Stephen was getting out. “What do you want?” he asked cautiously.
Nothing but your cooperation.”
Cooperation doing what?”
You don’t need the details. But because I’m kind, I’ll let you know that you will be contributing to the betterment of mankind, and in return, your name will be immortalized. You’re going to do great things, Steve. How does that sound?”
It sounded exactly like the answer Stephen had expected. Exactly like the life Steph had always said they were heading towards. Stephen scrambled for ideas. There had to be something, some way to get out of this room. But there wasn’t. Not with this much firepower concentrated on him.
Do it.
Stephen pressed the revolver under his chin and pulled the trigger. He saw the blinding flash, heard the deafening roar, felt the searing heat of the explosion as it blasted out of the barrel. And then he was staring at the ceiling, still very much alive.
Jim’s smile was gone. He stared at Stephen without a hint of emotion showing on his face. Stephen stared back, and in Jim’s eyes, he saw a smoldering hatred that stunned him. “We aren’t stupid, as you will come to learn soon enough. Those were blanks.” He turned his back to Stephen without saying another word and walked out of the room.
Stephen didn’t resist as one of the men rolled him over, digging a knee into his back painfully and handcuffing his wrists together. He finally understood why Steph had always called their condition a curse, and now it was too late. Another man kneeled down and began to prep a syringe. He filled it with a clear liquid from a tiny bottle, tipped it up, squeezed until liquid shot out, and then injected the drug into Stephen’s arm.
Stephen woke up with a splitting headache. He sat up and took in his surroundings, expecting the worst. What he found instead surprised him. The room was small, but not cramped. The lighting was dim, but only because the source was a fire roaring in a decorative fireplace. He was lying in a comfortable twin-sized bed instead of on a cot, or a concrete floor, or strapped to a hospital bed like he had been sure he would be. Most of the wall space was covered by shelves that were filled with books. A big overstuffed chair sat in front of the fireplace. A nice-sized LCD TV sat on a stand in front of a leather couch. The floor was mostly carpeted except in one corner of the room that was occupied by a toilet and a small stretch of ground in front of a kitchen area, both of which had tiled floors. The kitchen was a bit of a joke, but it looked serviceable; a sink with a cabinet underneath, one cupboard hanging on the wall above, and a mini fridge to the side with a microwave sitting on top of it.
Unconsciously, he changed his mind to Steph and looked around the room again. The “kitchen” had no counter space. The wooden cupboard above the sink was a darker brown than the sink cabinet. The carpet was an ugly brownish-gold color that didn’t match anything else in the room, although it did at least look thick and soft. The tile in the “bathroom” and “kitchen” was a flat, boring tan that—big surprise—didn’t match anything else. The wood of the bookshelves was a golden color that didn’t match the dark wood paneling covering the walls behind. The chair by the fireplace was red material, but the couch was black leather. The only two things in the room that went together were the TV stand, which was black-varnished wood, and the couch.
It was nice of them to look out for her comfort and all, but if they had to cut costs, couldn’t they have at least gone to Ikea or something to buy some matching furniture sets? And none of it helped to hide the big slate-grey metal door.
Thank you, Stephen, I’d have never figured that out. I'm not stupid. I’m just saying, it’s ugly.
The overhead lights switched on, bathing the room in harsh, artificial white light. The room had seemed cozy in the gentle light of the fire, but now it just felt restrictive. Steph heard a loud click, then a metallic scrape. Somebody was unlocking the door.
Stephen made a split-second decision to rush whoever was coming through. If he was lucky, he could surprise them and escape. The door started to open. Stephen rolled off of the bed. His foot met the ground first—Steph was right, the carpet was soft—and he pushed off. Instead of propelling him forward, his leg folded. He belly-flopped onto the floor, knocking the wind out of him.
Jim walked in to the sight of Stephen, still naked, ass to the air, gasping for breath. He laughed. Hard. In that moment, something rare happened. Steph and Stephen were in complete agreement. Their entire mind was focused on their mutual hatred.
Looks like the drugs aren’t completely out of your system,” Jim said through his laughs. “Good. Cover it up and sit it on the couch.”
Jim’s orders were directed to two men who had followed him in. Their snickering only somewhat hampered them as they pulled Stephen to his feet and fit him into a bathrobe. They walked him to the couch and dropped him down unceremoniously, then withdrew as Jim pulled over a footrest that had been hidden from Stephen’s sight.
You can come in now,” he called as he sat down.
An attractive auburn-haired woman walked into the room. She had a sexy, professional look. Stephen couldn’t help but admire her figure, despite protests from Steph. The woman held a voice recorder in one hand. She smiled at Stephen and sat at the opposite end of the couch. “Hello, Steve,” she said, “How are you?” Stephen put his head between his knees and didn’t respond. He was feeling nauseous.
Answer her,” Jim said coolly.
I have been itching to tell you this… Fuck off.” Stephen looked into Jim’s eyes defiantly, his nausea forgotten. In the span of a moment he saw anger, then that burning hatred, then amusement. He realized that this was not a balanced man. He hid behind a calm demeanor, but only barely. This was a good thing. If Stephen could-
Jim slapped Stephen across the side of his head, like a patronizing father disciplining an unruly child. Steph took control to keep Stephen from losing his cool. She looked back to the woman in the too-tight dress suit with the plunging neck like. She was staring down Jim with a stern look on her face.
James, outside,” she said as she stood up and walked back out of the room. Mark—Damnit, Jim—No, shit, James, apparently—he looked irritated, but he stood up and followed the woman out. Steph could hear their hushed, angry voices, but couldn’t make out the words. They argued for several minutes. Steph smiled. She didn’t know what their intentions were, but so far she’d learned a hell of a lot more about them than they had of her.
The woman returned alone.
Please accept my apologies, Steve. Despite the actions of certain people, we have every intention of giving you a comfortable life here. I promise that nobody else will lay a hand on you… so long as you don’t try harm anyone else.”
Steph was taken aback, but Stephen recovered quickly. “Let’s get this straight,” he said. “You took away the ‘comfortable life’ that I already had by putting me at gun point, drugging me, and throwing me in a cell--and don’t kid yourself, no amount of cheap furniture changes what this is--and now you’re acting like giving me your version of a ‘comfortable life,’ minus my fucking freedom, is a bargain deal?”
The woman smiled and sat down on the footrest in front of Stephen. “You know, we’ve been watching you for a while. You’ve hurt a lot of people, Steve. You stole their life savings, their identities… Even some of their lives.”
Stephens’s eyes widened. How could she possibly know about that? “That was an accident. It wasn’t my fault.”
Oh? We can let the court of law decide that, if you’d like.”
Realization dawned on Stephen. “So you aren’t with the law. Or, I’m guessing, with any kind government agency. Who are you? What do you want with me?”
My point, Steve,” she continued, ignoring his questions, “is that your previous lifestyle wasn’t going to last. You had some powerful people tracking you down, you know. Other than us, I mean. It was only a matter of-”
Look, lady, I got it. It’s not like you were very subtle. You have dirt on me and life here is better than it would be in prison. I’m very threatened. I’ll be a proper good boy. Now answer my questions.”
The woman’s smile widened to a grin. She turned the recorder on and set it in her lap. "I want to start by asking a few general questions about your life. As we both know, you were born a boy. When did you first become female?"
Steph answered, "Now there's a million dollar question.”
The woman paused a long moment before continuing. "You know, I have a vague idea of how you work. I've been watching you for quite a while. I would like your... perspective, I suppose… to align with my questions. For now, at least. So do you mind letting "Steph" answer any questions that I have regarding your female side?"
Relief washed through Steph. She had started to think that the woman really did know everything about her, but she had just revealed her ignorance. She thought that “Steve” had to change his entire body to be “Steph” or “Stephen.” She didn’t realize that their mind could change separately from their body. Steph started briefing with Stephen. They’d rehearsed for this job more times than she could count.
Whoever these people are, they’re in way over their heads.
My mother was pretty old when she gave birth to me.” Steph said.
Excuse me?”
Old enough that she was experiencing menopause when I was only six years old.”
What does this have to do with-“
The doctors prescribed her hormone pills. Estrogen. They looked a lot like candy to a little boy.”
The woman finally kept her mouth shut, so Steph continued.
I ate a handful of them one day, and voila! Mom came home to find a little girl instead of her son. That’s when and how, and that’s why Steph can’t answer your questions right now.”
Fascinating. So those pills you take every day, from the clear plastic bag…”
Yes. Hormone pills, both testosterone and estrogen. I steal them in bulk from hospitals. They work as the fuel that powers my… ability.”
But doesn’t your body produce those hormones by itself?”
Not enough.”
The woman stood up and left the room, then came back a few minutes later.
I’ve sent James to get what you need. Until then, we will continue our session.”
You aren’t getting anything more until you answer my questions.”
The woman let out an exasperated sigh. “My name is Joan, and I want to study you. Now, then. How did your parents react?”
Study me for what?”
Stop deflecting. What are you researching?”
Joan slapped Steph across the face. “Don’t forget your place here,” Joan said icily, “How did your parent’s react?”
Steph gave the truth. She needed to stall until her pills came. “They called me an abomination, an affront to God. They were very religious, and I realize now that I challenged their beliefs. How could only men be priesthood holders if I was both man and woman? They told me never to do it again, and to keep my mouth shut or God would damn me to hell.”
Joan didn’t reply, stretching out an uncomfortable silence.
How did that make you feel?”
“…Are you shitting me?” Stephen answered, “Is this some kind of therapy session?”
I need to understand you. Answer the question.”
I don’t fucking remember. I was so young, I didn’t understand. I knew I’d done something wrong, that was all.”
Hm. Very good information. Thank you, Steve. Now, how did you keep Steph a secret?”
Very carefully.”
More uncomfortable silence. Steph took the time to analyze Joan. She was pretty, she had to admit. And slutty. Steph figured that she must be used to working with men, and she used her beauty to disarm them. If she worked with women more often, she’d have realized that showing off her tits and wearing a tight skirt that accentuated her ass would only bring disdain from Steph.
Steph laughed.
But she still knew she would be talking to me, at some point.
What’s funny?” asked Joan.
Nothing. What did you ask? Oh right, keeping Steph secret. Wasn’t too hard, I just lived as Steve. Or Stephen, as I would later come to call my male side. Steph was there. I could feel her. But it wasn’t her life.”
Joan paused a moment and gave them a quizzical look, then continued. “When did you start changing into Steph again? You would have had to purposefully steal more estrogen pills.”
What was taking Jim so long with those damn pills? Steph was growing uncomfortable with revealing so much about her life. “It was early in High School. I started to think that I’d made the whole thing up, or it’d just been a dream or something. So I stole some more of my mom’s pills. Turns out it was no dream. I was old enough by then to be curious about… certain things. I started turning into Steph a lot more. I was a horny teenager, after all.”
Joan shifted uncomfortably. Red blossomed onto her cheeks. “Oh. Um... Okay, so-”
Stephen saw her discomfort and gave Joan a predatory smile. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to fuck a man who knows exactly where it feels best?”
Joan’s face went a darker shade of red. Steph suspected that this was the most uncomfortable silence yet for Joan. It was uncomfortable for her, too. But not for Stephen.
Jim finally returned with the bag of pills before Joan had recovered. “What did I miss?” he asked as he plopped the bag onto the couch next to Steph. Joan babbled something in response, but Steph didn’t hear. She was staring at the bag.
The hormone pills were a testament to Steph’s extreme paranoia... And, as it turned out, her incredible genius. Stephen would kiss Steph right now, if she wasn’t him. He had called her crazy countless times, but she’d always reply that she would save their life someday. She had been right.
The truth was, they didn’t actually need the pills to change sexes. Their body provided enough hormones to change whenever they wanted. Still, at Steph’s insistence, they had been carrying around that bag of hormone pills for over a decade now, popping one of each—Estrogen and Testosterone—into their mouth constantly, making sure that everybody saw it so that if they ever somehow got abducted, they could lie and say that they needed the pills. Stephen thought it was bat-shit crazy, planning for the day they got kidnapped, but… Well, look at them now. He picked up the bag and started picking out testosterone pills, tossing one after the other into his mouth. He’d swallowed ten before they even noticed.
What are you doing?” asked Joan.
Steph kept popping the pills.
That’s enough! Stop!”
Joan grabbed the bag away from Stephen. She was too late. He’d just ingested more testosterone than he ever had before. All he had to do now was wait for it to kick in.
What did you just do?”
Nothing,” Steph replied, “I’m just nervous. They help calm me. Now,” Steph smiled at Joan, “where were we?”
Joan flushed again. “How long before you can change?”
Steph smiled with Stephen’s face. She could already feel the testosterone building. That was one of the curious things about their body; they could absorb hormones insanely fast. Steph guessed that the pills would be in her system completely within ten minutes.They were going to need to need every scrap of testosterone that they could get, so she had to put their use of it to a minimal level for the next few minutes. That meant being Steph completely. She accelerated her use of Estrogen as much as she could and pushed the growing well of potent testosterone away. She didn’t need a mirror to know the transformation that took place: Stephen’s thick, slightly curly mop of hair thinning and straightening to make an attractive women’s cut (it had taken a while to find a cut that worked well for both of them); eyebrows becoming thinner and slightly arched; eyelashes extending; eyes lightening to hazel instead of Stephen’s deep brown; cheekbones raising subtly; nose transforming from big and mannish to petite, with a delicate bridge; lips becoming fuller; chin shrinking and going pointier (she’d always hated her chin, even if Stephen insisted that it was attractive); chest shrinking horizontally while expanding outward, converting from Stephen’s broad, well-muscled pecks to her respectably sizeable breasts; waist narrowing, and hips narrowing slightly less to form an hourglass figure; sex changing; legs slimming; and finally, thankfully, body hair thinning, even shedding in some places. She would go crazy if she had to keep those hideous, hairy legs. The entire process only took moments. It was so fast that Joan almost seemed to miss it. Her eyes widened when she realized what she had just witnessed.
Oh my God, it’s really true.”
What?” asked Jim, “It changed? That fast?” He circled around the couch and looked at Steph.
I told you! Thank God! Let me look at you. Come on, stand up!”
It took a moment for Steph to realize what he was asking. “What?”
Take the robe off. I need to see.”
What? No!
Jim’s face went dark. Steph thought twice about her refusal and realized that it didn’t make sense. She needed to buy time, and she’d already slept with the pig anyway. Still, it galled her. Her face burned as she opened her robe. Jim’s eyes wandered over her body.
Incredible. Stand up.”
Steph, in the full grips of estrogen, couldn’t help but notice the bulge that was forming in Jim’s pants. It was disgusting. Revolting. And yet… She couldn’t help but think of how it had felt inside her. She bit her lip and squirmed in her seat as-
Oh, shit. Stephen, stop wasting testosterone!
Steph stamped Stephen back down and regained her composure.
I-I can’t stand. You drugged me,” she lied. The testosterone was counteracting the drugs nicely.
Right,” he mumbled as he walked out of the room. He came back in with the same two men who’d put the robe on him. They leered at her and smirked as they hauled her up from the couch. One of them groped her breast. Neither Jim nor Joan did anything about it as they circled her, making comments as if she was a cow at the market. Steph had never felt so humiliated in her life.
Now change back to Stephen, right here, so we can see,” Jim said.
No, wait,” Joan interjected, “let me talk to Steph first.”
That can wait, Joan. We have her standing here alrea-”
James, we will follow my methods, as you agreed. Put her back on the couch.”
The two men complied, then left the room again. Jim was muttering curses as he moved around to the back of the couch and rested his weight on his forearms.
Steph, I would like to know about your difficulties connecting with people. It must have been difficult, growing up without being able to get to close to anyone. How could you, when you weren’t even sure who you should love?”
The question caught Steph completely off guard.
Yes, it was.”
I would like to know, in particular, about Jason. Why him? Why then?”
Steph couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Why did that bitch have to ask this question now, when she was at her most vulnerable? She couldn’t control her emotions when she had this much estrogen coursing through her. Just the thought of Jason put a lump in her throat.
She knew she shouldn’t answer, but the vulnerability caused by what was happening and the unbalanced hormones combined with the need she’d felt for years now to confide in someone. She was so tired of not having anyone to share her life with. Her walls crumbled, and her reservations went with them.
Through newly formed tears, her voice strained, she heard herself say it. “I loved him so much.”
Stephen stirred. He was trying to take control. Steph wasn’t about to allow it. “He was kind. He was different. He loved me for me. Or I thought he did. We were together for over a year. I was hardly ever Stephen during that time, because I was so happy with being Steph, and being with Jason. But my curse kept nagging at me. He had to know, or else I was living a lie. I was lying to him, every single day, and I couldn’t take it. So I showed him.”
How did he respond?”
He panicked. He said that he had to go. He told his dad, who obviously didn’t believe him. So Jason brought him to see me. I… I like to think that Jason still loved me, and he was just in shock, looking for approval, for validation that what he was seeing was real.”
Please describe what happened.”
Steph, who was usually so good at reading people, at watching their body language and catching slight shifts in their tones, was completely oblivious to the edge in Joan’s voice. Stephen was practically screaming at her, but she stamped him down. She had to get this off her chest. It felt so damn good. “His father shared my parent’s religion. They were a cult called the Children of the Morning, and they very much believed that men held dominion over women. It was core to their beliefs. I challenged… No, I disproved everything that the Children believed. My parents couldn’t bring themselves to report me to them since I was their only child, but Jason’s father held no such reservations. He decided to sacrifice me to his Gods, right then and there. Jason wouldn’t allow it. They fought, and it turned violent. Jason lost, but not before stabbing his father. I could have called an ambulance, and yes, they probably could have saved him. It took over an hour for the son of a bitch to bleed out. So if you want to call me a murderer, go right ahead. I have no regrets. That bastard took Jason from me.” Steph wiped away her tears and finally looked into Joan’s eyes. She had expected to see sadness over the tragic story, and maybe even a bit of pity. Instead, she saw anger.
You don’t even remember his name, do you?”
Name? Who’s? Jason’s father?”
Richard. He was Richard, you murdering cunt!”
Steph’s head reeled. She couldn’t figure out what the hell was happening.
Who are you, Joan?”
Richard was my uncle. He raised me as one of his own, and YOU TOOK HIM FROM ME!” Joan’s screams reverberated through the room. Steph was too shocked to respond. “I’ll bet you thought you’d gotten away with it, but justice always catches up, Steph.
That’s enough,” Jim said. Steph agreed. They had finished absorbing the testosterone. “Joan, you should have told me about this before. We’ll need to re-evaluate your position in this. Step out, cool off for a few minutes.”
Wait,” Steph called out, “Joan, sit back down. Did I tell you about the time I spent in Juvie?” Joan didn’t reply. “I was attending George Washington High in the beginning of tenth grade. I played baseball, and Steph had a big crush on one of the guys on my team named John Caffrey. We slipped up one day, and Steph started flirting with him while we were still in Stephen’s body.”
Wait, what are you saying?” Jim said. “Have you been lying to us? You can be Steph in your mind, but in the body of Stephen, can’t you?”
Yes. Anyway, the whole team started giving me shit, calling me a fag, among other things. I snapped. I discovered something incredible that day. I could push myself harder into one gender, becoming more masculine or feminine. In this case, masculine. I was like a wild animal. I brutalized John. He almost died. I still remember the incredible strength that I felt as I beat my fists into his face over and over and over. The powerful need to survive, to dominate, to kill. I was an alpha male.”
Joan stood up. Her face blanched. “You’re saying that you burned through a lot of testosterone aren’t you? Since that’s what you described as your ‘fuel.’ And it made you stronger, faster, and highly aggressive. How much testosterone did you just take out of that bag?”
A slow smile spread across Steph’s face. “Clever girl.”
Shit,” Jim cursed as he fumbled with a pair of handcuffs that dangled from his belt.
Steph opened the flood gates on the massive pool of testosterone that had pooled within their body. Stephen heard ripping and popping sounds as his body morphed, doubling and tripling in size. He knew that it was causing damage, but all he felt was the power, the tempest of animalistic rage that drove out any sense of pain or rational thought.
Jim pulled his revolver from his hip and yelled something. Words were beyond Stephen, but he recognized the threat and attacked, leaping over the back of the couch.
The pistol fired. Jim was on the ground. Everything went red. Somebody was screaming. Stephen turned towards the sound. Joan was holding Jim’s gun. Stephen looked at the ground around him. Most of Jim’s body was at his feet. Limbs had been separated. Blood was everywhere. Joan fired.
Stephen felt the impact this time, and then instinct took back over. More gunshots. Stephen had Joan by the throat.
Backup finally arrived. They looked like the same men who had ambushed Stephen in Jim’s bedroom. He threw Joan towards the doorway as the first two men entered. She crashed into both of them. Their bodies tangled together, and the mess blocked up the doorway long enough for Stephen to close the distance. None of them could get their guns on him without shooting each other.
They tried to use batons, but they were so crowded in the hallway that they couldn’t get any good hits in. A few got Tasers on him, but he barely noticed. The knives came out. They bit into his flesh, but he felt no pain. Seeing the slaughter, one desperate man pulled out the Mace. It filled the hallway. Stephen didn’t notice, but they did. He finished off the last hacking, wheezing man with a knife to his chest. He didn’t know how or when the knife he’d grabbed the knife, but now images flashed through his mind of the carnage he’d caused with it: The blade slamming into a man's stomach; slashing across another’s face; lacerating Joan's throat as she begged for him to stop. Stephen fell to his knees and emptied his stomach, and then Steph and Stephen, kneeling in a pool of blood, bile, and tears, wept together.
They took an elevator up and found that they were still in Jim’s supposed hilltop home. A few more guards were present, but they were dispatched easily. They found a little room with multiple computer monitors set up, all showing a different view of the room below. It was completely destroyed, and there was blood everywhere. Jim’s lifeless eyes were staring into one of the cameras. They opened the case of the computer that ran the surveillance system and put a bullet through the hard drive.
They wandered up some stairs and into Jim’s office. His computer was on. He had left it unlocked. Right on the desktop was a folder titled “Steve Fischer.” They moved the mouse over the file.
Wait. Find out his real name first.
They opened Chrome and went to Facebook. His account was logged in. The name was James Reynolds.
They closed Chrome and moved the mouse back over to the file with their name on it, then noticed another next to it that said “Jamie.” Curious, they opened it first. It was full of pictures of nude women’s bodies with James’s face photoshopped on.
They backed out and opened their folder. Inside were multiple Word documents and another folder that said “pics.” They opened it and found thousands of candid pictures of either Steph or Stephen going about their daily lives. James had been watching them for a long time. They backed up to the previous folder and started browsing the Word documents. James’s notes made for a nice journal. It turned out several of their “Marks” had been James’s friends. The disadvantage with targeting rich people was that they all knew each other, some way or another. James had been present when Steph had first started courting a new Mark. James suspected the worst, knowing that a woman matching Steph’s description had just conned two of his other friends, so he’d hired someone to follow her. That someone had been watching through the windows one night when Steph changed into Stephen.
Mixed feelings of horror, anger, and amusement spread through them as they continued reading.
6/08- I finally caught Its attention. It asked me to go to some art show or something next weekend. Started prepping Its room. Made Joan aware. Very excited.”
It? IT? Fucking asshole!
6/09- Visited the hormone therapy center again. They still say I’m not eligible due to ‘health concerns.’ Steve Fischer is my only hope.”
6/12- Joan confirmed that she will help me analyze Steve in the hopes that she can help me learn how to change like It. Hired a team of ex-special forces. Everything is falling into place.”
6/15- Amazing progress already, and we just started! It turns out that It uses hormones, testosterone and estrogen, to cause the sex change. My hope is that with training, I can force my body to do what”
The last note ended there.
Is he? Does that make us freaks?
Oh. True. So what do you think? Would you have just helped him out if, in exchange, he’d agreed to keep his mouth shut?
We weren’t.
Stephen had nothing to say to that.
How are we even alive still? I think we have at least six bullet holes in us.
We’re no hero, Stephen, Steph interrupted.
He had nothing for that either.
Stephen… you definitely don’t need to explain to me that you don’t learn very quickly.
Kidding. You just saved our ass, after all. We’re two sides. Opposites. We both have our pitfalls. I can’t believe how naïve I was, telling so much to Joan. That only would have worked against us if we’d failed to escape. Anyway, we got out, so it doesn’t matter. We’ll start by burning this place down. Then we’ll disappear and start a new life. Won’t be the first time. Probably won’t be the last. We’ll decide later who gets to live this time. I think we’re about even right now, so we’ll probably just flip a coin. Sound good?
We have a plan, then. We’ll do a briefing later, to work out the details. For now, let’s go find some gas.

For the first time that Steph could remember, Stephen didn’t complain about the de-briefing they went through as they stood and watched the mansion burn to the ground.