Posts Tagged ‘Transformation’

Why I Hate Magic — The Complete Story

February 11, 2010

Why I Hate Magic

Chapter 1

Daniel could think of several reasons why he didn’t want to go to Dr. Suspendo’s Midnight Magic Show. His apartment needed cleaning. Semester finals were coming up and he really should be hitting the books. There was an all-night marathon of “Godzilla” films playing on TNT.

While any of these excuses would have worked, the real reason Daniel had no interest in watching a magic show had almost entirely to do with the fact that he hated magic. Hate, in actuality, was not strong enough of a word. Daniel detested magic. He “hatested” it.

Sleight of hand, card tricks, reading minds – it drove Daniel insane trying to comprehend how anyone – even a child – could consider for a moment that magic was anything more then trickery and lies.

This strong stance against magic was not always present. As a small child, Daniel had once delighted in the mysteries of the supernatural.

For his seventh birthday, Daniel, eager for a chance to watch a magic show up close, convinced his parents to hire a children’s magician to perform at his party.

Daniel’s parents, not willing to pay the money required for a magician at the top of thier career, made the unfortunate mistake of hiring an elderly gentleman who claimed to have once performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”

That afternoon, watched in horror as the washed-up magician drank more and more from the flask he carried in his breast pocket, eventually combusting in a tornado of drunken destruction. That day, Daniel’s tolerance for the illusionary inclined waned to an almost non-existent level.

Traumatized by the sight of a tuxedoed man urinating on his birthday cake, Daniel had never forgiven those who practiced magic.

Even 15 years later, Daniel would brake out into a cold sweat if shown a top hat or a bunny rabbit.

This, then, was why Daniel was completely miserable as he sat at a tiny table towards the front of the Teller Community Theater, nursed a beer and watched Dr. Suspendo’s warm-up act, an elderly magician, pull a seemingly never-ending string of ribbons from his wrinkled sleeve.

Chapter 2

Daniel, of course, had protested when he heard where Gloria wanted to go for her twenty-second birthday.

“Wouldn’t you rather go to a bar or a movie,” he asked, offering up one of his patented country-boy grins. “We could even go bowling.”

“Bowling?” Gloria asked, not believing what she was hearing. “We go bowling every week.”

“But birthday bowling? That only happens once a year.”

“I’ve never been to a magic show in my life,” Gloria said, smiling ear-to-ear. “Can you believe that? In my entire life! Think of all those card tricks I’ve missed out on.”

“You haven’t missed much,” Daniel hissed. “Trust me. Listen; if that’s where you want to go, I’m not going to be able to make it. I, uh, have some stuff to do.”

Gloria frowned.

She and Daniel had been best friends since their freshmen year of college. Together, the two had helped each other with classes, relationships and disasters of all shapes and sizes. Once, during a particularly stressful night of test cramming, they had even become something more then friends – if only for a moment of brief, fleeting passion. This afternoon, though, as Gloria and Daniel walked to the afternoon English class they shared, she was annoyed at him for not joining in on her excitement.

“You’re not going to miss out on my birthday just because you’re scared of a little magic?”

“I’m not scared of magic,” Daniel snapped. “I don’t like it. There is a difference. Magicians are nothing more then smarmy little men that get paid to lie. The only thing I’m afraid of is wasting my money on Dr. Suspendo’s Midnight Magic Show. What kind of name is that anyway? What’s Dr. Suspendo have his doctorate in? Wearing tuxedos that are too tight? I don’t want to have to stare at the outline of some dude’s junk while he tries to guess my weight.”

Despite her frustration, Gloria couldn’t help but laugh with Daniel.

“I think Dr. Suspendo would take some umbrage with you calling her a smarmy little man.”

“The magician’s a “her”?” Daniel asked, somewhat surprised.

“Yeah, she is,” Gloria said. “She’s in my public speaking class. She’s really cool too – none of that David Copperfield mirror hocus-pocus. She’s into all this New Age stuff and dresses all in black.”

“She sounds like your hero,” Daniel said, rolling his eyes.

Gloria had recently begun working next door to a candle store and had become fascinated by the shop’s Wiccan owners. Not a day went by that Gloria did not attempt to bore Daniel to death with the minute details she had uncovered about the shop owners’ lives and their beliefs.

“I saw a poster for her show at The Candlewick-an,” Gloria said, confirming Daniel’s suspicion. “She was dressed really sexy. Like something from a burlesque show.”

“How did I guess,” Daniel shot back. “What a cliché. I bet she wears fishnet stockings too, right?”

Gloria rolled her eyes.

“I’m serious, though,” Daniel said. “I don’t think I’m going to go tonight. We’ll go to the bar tomorrow, though … right?”

Daniel quickly turned his gaze away, hoping to avoid the look on Gloria’s face as he dropped the bomb on her. It was too late, though. From behind him, Daniel could feel the glare of the young woman whom he had angered. And, like a powerful magnet, it drew him in.

Daniel slowly turned his head towards Gloria, hoping to gage her anger. Before he knew it, though, he was trapped.

Daniel knew, looking at Gloria’s big blue eyes starting to well up with tears and her mouth quiver, that there was no way he would be able to say no to her.

“Would you really do that to me?” Gloria asked, choking back tears. “Would you really miss my twenty-second birthday – even after I waited in line all morning last fall just so I could get you a Wii for your birthday? I thought you were a better friend then that.”

“I’m sorry,” Daniel said. “I can’t do it.”

“Jesus Christ!” Gloria yelled, throwing her arms up in the air. “What’s it going to take to get you to come out and celebrate my birthday with me?”

She grabbed Daniel by his ears and pulled his face up close to her own.

“You’re going with me,” Gloria firmly said. “That’s final. I don’t want to hear any more shit from you. Capiche?”

Daniel released himself from Gloria’s grasp, rubbing his red ears.

“I’ll go,” he said. “But I’m not going to enjoy myself.”

“You don’t have to enjoy yourself,” Gloria responded. “I’ll enjoy myself twice as much for you. All you have to do is sit beside me and pout. You can even buy me a drink or two if the mood strikes.”

Gloria smiled as she wrapped her arms around Daniel and gave him the biggest hug her tiny frame could manage.

“You are going to have fun, though. Just you wait and see. Tonight’s going to be the best night ever.”

Chapter 3

Daniel was on his best behavior when he showed up at the small community theater where Dr. Suspendo would be performing. As he took his seat, he offered Gloria’s other friends a feeble smile, trying his best to act cordial.

As a pre-show band played, Daniel even began to hope that the night might not be a total bust. But when the opening magician took the stage and began his routine, Daniel realized that he would need to begin drinking pronto if he was going to make it through the rest of the show without having a nervous breakdown.

And so, before the first magician had made it to the half-way point of his act, Daniel had already amassed an impressive army of empty bottles that crowded the table in front of him.

He was slowly pealing the label off of his sixth beer, watching the grinning magician pretend to saw a woman in half, when Daniel found himself opening his mouth and shouting.

“Quick! Somebody call the cops. Leatherface is on the loose!”

As Daniel listened to his voice echo throughout the auditorium, he was shocked by his outburst.

Daniel was normally not one for heckling. In the past, he had even picked fights with teenagers who saw it fit to talk throughout a movie. But now, the combination of alcohol and a sour mood had brought out the worst in him. Daniel saw from out of the corner of his eye that Gloria was giving him a furious glare. Worse, Daniel could feel the eyes of the rest of the theater upon him; everybody watching the loudmouth who had tried to be a comedian.

Daniel slowly took another swig from his beer, trying to focus on the show and forget his outburst. And then it happened again.

“I bet she’s not even a volunteer. She’s part of the act!”

The magician, flustered by Daniel’s vocal eruption, dropped his saw onto the floor.

“Seriously, old man, get off the stage before we have to change your adult diapers.”

Daniel couldn’t control himself. He started booing as the magician fumbled to retrieve his saw from the floor.

Daniel glanced around at his fellow audience and saw a sea of angry frowns. Leading the army of the displeased was Gloria.

“Shut up Daniel,” she hissed. “You’re acting like an asshole.”

Daniel went back to nursing his beer, hoping to silence his inner-juvenile delinquent with a steady stream of alcohol.

The magician had picked up his saw again and was trying to resume his derailed act.

“Well, I guess we better put this young lady back together again,” he said. “We wouldn’t want her to bleed out on the stage.”

“Oh come on,” Daniel shouted.

He found himself standing up and facing the crowd.

“Do you people believe that Harry Houdini up there actually sawed a woman in half? Am I sitting in a theater full of retards?”

“Sit down and shut up,” somebody in the audience shouted back. “You’re ruining the show.”

“Yeah, sit down you dumb fuck,” another voice added.
The theater burst out into a mixture of laughter and applause. Daniel’s face turned bright red.

By the time the audience had settled back down and Daniel, embarrassed, went back to his beer, the magician had helped the volunteer out of the rectangular box in which she had been contained. The magician presented the volunteer to the audience to inspect, her clothes free of any saw marks.

“Let’s give a hand to our young volunteer,” the magician prompted.

The audience gave the young woman a hearty round of applause as she took a bow, pretending for a moment to double over in pain and hold an imaginary saw wound on her stomach before righting herself and laughing along with the magician.

Daniel rolled his eyes.

As the applause died down, the magician took off his glasses and began to clean them.

“Now, tonight’s young heckler, rude as he was, was right about something,” the magician said. “I have a confession to make.”

Daniel perked up, suddenly only interested in reclaiming his self-righteousness.

“This young woman is not exactly a volunteer,” the magician said, putting a hand on the woman’s shoulder. “She’s actually my daughter.”

“What did I say?” Daniel shouted at no one in particular. “Boooo! Fraud! Boooo!”

“This young lady is not just my daughter, though,” the magician said, ignoring Daniel and producing a giant bed sheet from seemingly out of nowhere. He flapped the sheet in the air, letting the audience see that it was a standard piece of cloth, and threw it over the young lady so that she was covered from head to toe and left looking like Casper the Friendly Clansman.

“This young woman is actually tonight’s feature entertainment. Please give a hand to my daughter, Dr. Suspendo.”

The magician ripped the blanket off the young lady and the audience gasped.

While the volunteer had moments ago been dressed in a conservative baby blue sundress with her hair tightly pulled back in a pony-tail, the woman who now stood on stage was dressed in an outfit fully constructed from shiny black latex that would not have been out of place on a dominatrix. She stood atop towering stiletto pumps and her hair, jet black, had magically arranged itself into a lofty beehive hairdo. A whip was wrapped around her waist, acting like a faux belt. Nothing she was wearing really needed to be held up with a belt, though. Her outfit clung to her curvaceous figure like a glove.

“Thanks daddy,” she said. She held a hand up to show that it was empty. With a flick of her wrist, she now held a tube of lipstick.

After applying a dark shade of crimson to her lips, she blew her father a kiss as he gathered his props and left the stage.

Dr. Suspendo, turned to the audience and looked at the gathering of onlookers, as if studying a menagerie of exotic, yet disgusting, insects.

“Thanks for coming tonight,” she said. “Before we begin our show, though, I really have to know something. Which one of you was giving my poor old dad all that shit?”

The doctor unfurled the whip that she had worn around her waist, cracking it in the air. The sound echoed throughout the auditorium.

“Come on, honey, speak up. Don’t be shy. I just want to have a bit of fun.”

Daniel shrunk into his chair. Dr. Suspendo was beautiful and Daniel had always been slightly uncomfortable around beautiful women. It was more then that, though. There was something else about Dr. Suspendo that made him uneasy. There was an aura of danger.

He leaned towards Gloria and whispered into her ear.

“I have to go to the bathroom; I’ll be right back.”

Gloria shot him a look of surprise. Daniel didn’t catch her expression, though, as he had already gotten up from his chair and had slowly begun to walk away from the table.

“I believe that’s the asshole you’re looking for, Doctor.”

As Gloria spoke up, Daniel froze in his tracks. He turned and shot his friend a betrayed look, his eyes wide and nervous.

Gloria stuck her tongue out at him.

“Thanks, honey,” Dr. Suspendo cooed. “Mr. Heckler, you wouldn’t mind joining me on the stage for my first trick, would you? I could use a volunteer and you look like such a big, strapping young man.”

The audience laughed as Daniel looked at the doctor and replied, “Oh, I’d love to. But I really have to use the bathroom.”

“Oh, that can wait, hon,” Dr. Suspendo said as she cracked her whip again. “This won’t take but a moment.”

“Uh, I guess if it’s a short trick I can, uh, take the stage,” Daniel managed to stammer, his legs shaking.

“That’s a sport, sport,” the doctor replied.

As Daniel slowly climbed onto the stage, he starred at Dr. Suspendo. She was much taller then she looked from the audience. With her pumps and hairdo, she seemed to tower a full foot above Daniel’s head. As Daniel took her in, she gave him a sly smirk and cracked her whip again.

Daniel could feel the air move as the whip’s tail whizzed by his ear.

“You’re not going to hurt me, are you?” he asked.

“Not with this thing anyway,” Dr. Suspendo said, tossing her whip to the side of the stage.

Dr. Suspendo joined the audience in laughter before motioning for Daniel to take a seat in a chair at the center of the stage.

With a flick of her wrist, the doctor suddenly produced a medallion out of thin air. She held it up for the audience to inspect. It was a golden orb that hung from a thick chain. It shined in the bright glare of the spotlight.

“Who’s up for some hypnosis,” the doctor asked the audience, to a smattering of applause.

Daniel breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh thank God, I thought you were going to punish me or something.”

“Who said I’m not going to punish you,” Dr. Suspendo said, glancing over her shoulder at Daniel.

“You have been a very bad boy, after all.”

Daniel laughed.

“Hypnosis doesn’t work on me sweetheart.”

Slowly, Daniel could feel some of his beer-fueled bravado returning to his system.

“My hypnosis works on everyone, ‘sweetheart,’” the doctor said, throwing the word back at Daniel with a sneer.

“Well, gang, what should we do to our loud-mouthed friend? Should we make him think he’s a pig? How about if we unearth some memories of him being molested as a child for us all to enjoy?”

The audience began to laugh.

“I’m telling you, sweet tits, hypnosis is a fraud. Nothing you do is going to make me oink like a pig or make me think my uncle fondled me. Speaking of fondle, how about you come and sit on my lap?”

As Daniel added this last bit, he saw Gloria cover her face in what could only be embarrassment.

While Daniel was usually not this boorish in his behavior, alcohol had a funny way of bringing out the frat boy in him. Daniel no longer cared about what his friend thought. This magician had tried to embarrass him and now it was his turn to play the game.

“Listen, why don’t you pick up the whip again and we can play Batman and Catwoman.”

“Are you going to be Catwoman?” Dr. Suspendo asked, one eyebrow raised.

“You’re the one who seems to be dressed the part,” Daniel shot back.

A few people in the audience began to laugh. He was slowly winning the crowd over and this only encouraged Daniel.

“I mean, seriously,” Daniel said. “Look at you. Does your pimp know you left the house dressed like that?”

The magician blushed as she turned away from the audience and glared at Daniel.

“You’ve got quite a mouth on you little boy. It must be all those snips and snails and puppy dog tails. You could use a little more sugar and spice and everything that’s nice.”

Daniel began to laugh as the magician raised her medallion and began to swing it slowly in front of his face. As Dr. Suspendo continued to swing the medallion, she softly murmured a chant.

Soon Daniel’s laughter died down and he began to follow the medallion’s movement with a vacant gaze.

“You are now under my control,” the magician said. “You are compelled to do and say anything I command you to. Is that clear?”

“Yes ma’am,” Daniel said; his voice empty of any emotion.

Gloria stared in shock at Daniel’s blank stare.

“What is your name, slave?” Dr. Suspendo asked.

“Daniel Huzzbath”

“Daniel, do you know why I am upset at you?”

“Because I made fun of your father and I was very rude to you.”

“That’s right Daniel. You’ve been a very bad little boy. Very bad.”

Daniel nodded slowly.

“I think you might make a much better behaved girl. The world could use more nice girls and less mean little boys. Don’t you agree?”

Once again, Daniel nodded.

“Well that settles it. From this point on, you are going to stop being such a nasty boy. Instead, you’re going to be the sweetest little girl this side of Shirley Temple.  You’re going to mind your manners and respect your peers. You’re going to empathize with those around you and you’re not going to embarrass your friends anymore.”

Dr. Suspendo shot Gloria a quick smile before returning to her hypnosis.

“You’re not going to have anytime to misbehave or to be rude because you are going to be too busy looking pretty and trying to find yourself a husband. Because that’s what sweet little girls like you do, right Danielle?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Daniel said, his voice adopting a high-pitched squeak.

The crowed began to nervously laugh.

“When I tell you to, you’re going to wake up as a well-behaved little girl. You’re going to stand up in front of the audience, do a curtsey and apologize for trying to ruin the show. Is that understood?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Daniel said in the same high-pitched voice as before.

“You may now wake up Danielle.”

Daniel slowly snapped back to consciousness, fluttering his eyes. He rubbed his face and stared at the crowed in front of him.

“Well, Danielle, what do you have to say for yourself?” Dr. Suspendo asked.

Daniel turned to look at the doctor and flashed a big, toothy grin.

“Care for some girl-on-girl action?”

The doctor dropped her medallion, flustered by Daniel’s flirtation with wit.

“What’s up Doc? I told you hypnosis didn’t work.”

As the audience burst out laughing, Dr. Suspendo gave her medallion a puzzled look. She glanced off stage and motioned at some unseen person.

“Get him out of here!”

A man in a guard’s uniform walked onto the stage and grabbed Daniel’s arm, pulling him offstage.

“Good night gang,” Daniel shouted at the audience, blowing them a kiss. “You’ve been great.”

As the guard dragged Daniel off the stage, he could hear Dr. Suspendo ask the audience if they were ready for some real magic.

“Pfff… There’s no such thing as real magic,” Daniel murmured.

“Doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole about it,” the guard replied, tossing Daniel out the back door and onto the street.

“Get lost kid.”

Chapter 4

Gloria steamed as she fished in her purse for her car keys. Unable to finish watching the show due to her embarrassment, she had told her friends she was going to the restroom but, once in the lobby, had decided to leave.

She did not know how Daniel could have behaved the way he did. Did he not care about her feelings? Couldn’t he have at least pretended to enjoy himself for the benefit of his best friend?

Gloria thought that she had meant more to him then that.

By the time Gloria had made her way to her car, she decided that she was going to kill Daniel the next time she saw him. As it turns out, she would get her chance sooner then she thought.

Daniel was leaning against her car, grinning wide and proud of himself.

“Did you see what I did in there? I bet that fraud is pissed off right now that I made her look like a putz. From where you were sitting did it look like she cried? Because I think I definitely saw a tear.”

Gloria swung her purse, hitting Daniel over his head.

He groaned in pain, doubling over.

“What do you carry in that thing, a brick?”

“You’re worried about her being pissed off?” Gloria screamed. “What about me? How do you think I feel after watching my best friend act like a class-A jerk in front of everyone?”

“I’m sorry,” Daniel said, suddenly finding himself genuinely remorseful. “I guess I drank a little too much. It doesn’t mean you had to hit me with a purse, though.”

“It’s my birthday, you asshole. You acted like a jerk on my birthday. I have every right to hit you with a purse.”

Gloria swung her purse at Daniel again. He caught it this time.

“You’re supposed to be helping me have a good time – not picking fights with magicians,” Gloria shouted, pulling her purse back from Daniel’s grasp.

She paused to take a breath, staring deeply into Daniel’s eyes.

“Seriously, Daniel you were a fucking asshole tonight.”

Daniel found himself getting defensive.

“I told you I didn’t want to come!”

“Why did you come, then? Why come if you’re going to be miserable and make a scene?”

“Because you asked me to!”

“Is that the only reason? Because I asked you to?”

“Of course it is! Why else would I have come to a fucking magic show?”

“Maybe because you’re my friend? How about because you care about me? Could it be because it was my birthday and maybe, just maybe, you owed it to me?”

Gloria could feel tears welling up in her eyes. Daniel did not notice.

“I already thanked you for the goddamned Wii,” he said. “I never would have accepted it if I thought you were going to hold it over my head for the rest of my life.”

“I’m not talking about the ‘goddamned Wii,’ Daniel. You don’t realize it, do you? After all this time, you still don’t get it. You don’t realize how you broke my heart.”

Daniel’s mouth dropped as he stared at Gloria.

“You fuck me and then you act like nothing happened,” she said between sniffles. “I put myself out there for you, believing that we were sharing something special and then you refuse to even talk about it.”

“Gloria… I’m sorry. I swear. I didn’t realize it meant anything to you. I thought we were just fooling around.”

It seemed that for the first time that night, Daniel was finding himself at a loss for words.

“God, I’ve had it up to here with you men. It’s always just fooling around for you.”

“It meant something to me too, you know,” Daniel said softly in a voice that was barely audible. “I didn’t talk about it because you never talked about it.”

Suddenly Daniel spoke up in a louder voice.

“You could have brought it up too, you know?”

“You know what, Daniel? You’re right. I could have brought it up. But you know what else? Maybe I shouldn’t have to. Maybe you should be able to tell that I’m in love with you without me having to shout it from the mountaintops.”

Daniel found himself struggling to say something … anything.

“Sometimes I wish you were a girl. Maybe if that magician had changed you tonight, you would actually be able to empathize and tell what I’m feeling for once. We could share our emotions with each other and I wouldn’t have to wear a giant billboard advertising what I’m thinking every time I wanted to have a meaningful conversation with you. I really do. I wish you were my girlfriend because you obviously have no interest in ever being my boyfriend.”

“Gloria… I…”

Daniel did the same thing he always did when he was at a loss for words – he made a joke.

“We can put our hair up in curlers and watch ‘Grease’ if it means you won’t be mad at me anymore.”

Gloria suddenly got very angry.

“Just shut up Daniel. I don’t want to hear any more of your stupid jokes. I don’t want to hear anything from you tonight. You’ve said enough.”

As Gloria began to walk towards her car, Daniel vainly struggled to get something off of his chest.

“I… Gloria. I didn’t … What I mean is that ….”

“I said shut up.”

Gloria shoved Daniel aside and got into her car. As Daniel stood, unable to form the only words that were on his mind, Gloria drove away.
Now, alone in the parking lot, Daniel was finally able to let go of the emotion that been wedged in his throat for the last several months.

“I love you too, Gloria. I love you too.”

Chapter 5

The first time he met her, Daniel knew he loved Gloria.

He had started college alone; deciding to attend a school that was hundreds of miles away from his friends and family. It wasn’t until he found himself sitting in an auditorium of strangers for his freshmen orientation, though, that he realized the magnitude of his decision.

Sullen, Daniel shrunk in his seat and let out the world-weariest sigh an eighteen-year-old could muster. He hadn’t even begun classes and he was already regretting his decision to leave home.

“Don’t worry,” a voice beside him said. “I’m a little overwhelmed too.”

Daniel turned to look at who had spoken to him and was struck, as if by lightning.

Immediately Daniel knew, without a doubt, that he was looking at the prettiest girl he had ever seen.

Piercing blue eyes gazed out from underneath a dark cloud of curly black hair. In this girl’s eyes, Daniel thought he saw the future reflected back at him. Like the moon shining in a swimming pool, he saw glimpses of something strange and wonderful; something that appeared closer then it actually was. He saw himself getting old and loosing his hair and his memory. The only thing he would never loose, he thought, would be the memory of this girl.

Her eyes glittered like stars reflected in her cloud-like skin. Ruby red lips parted, offering Daniel a smile so powerful, it caused him to squint, just a bit, as if to shield his eyes from the girl’s warmth.

Her face was small and delicate, like a hand-crafted china doll.

The dark ringlets of the girl’s midnight black hair bounced as she laughed.

Her nose, small and elf-like, crinkled with amusement at the awe-struck expressions Daniel was making.

Daniel did not mind that the girl was laughing at him. Her laugh was like a lullaby sung to a love-struck child. And that’s exactly what Daniel was at this moment.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going to bite,” she said.

The sound of her voice echoed in Daniel’s ears, sending tingles up his spine and causing him to clench every muscle in his body.

He blushed, struggling to regain composure.

“My name is Daniel,” he managed to stammer.

“My name is Gloria.”

The next two hours flew by far to fast for Daniel’s taste. Ignoring the presentation that had been prepared for the incoming freshmen, Daniel and Gloria talked about where they had come from and where they were going. He hung onto her every word, taking it in and savoring it like a dying man would hoard over his last meal. They exchanged hopes and fears, laughing and sighing all the way.

When the orientation was over and the freshmen were ushered towards their new dorms, the two newly-made friends exchanged a hug.

Daniel hugged the girl tighter then anything he has ever grasped. He could feel forever in her presence and he never wanted to let go.

Even though they had just met, Daniel felt the two had shared something deep and personal, something everlasting.

In the next several years, Daniel and Gloria’s friendship only blossomed. Daniel grew beyond his puppy dog-like infatuation and fell hopelessly in love with Gloria, inside and out.

And then it happened.

One night, several months ago, the two were up exceptionally late at night, helping each other cram for their semester finals.

Hopped up on Red Bull and candy, Gloria was struck with an uncontrollable bout of the giggles at something Daniel said. Daniel, afraid of waking his roommate, attempted to silence Gloria. The friends soon found themselves in an awkward wrestling match, ending with the two of them lying on the floor, facing each other.

Not aware of what he was doing until it was done; Daniel reached over and kissed Gloria. Her lips, still sweat with the taste of candy, kissed Daniel back.

As time seemed to slow down, someone’s hand shot up to caress the other’s hair. Clothes were shed. Secrets shared.

That night, the two friends became something more. They became lovers.

Gloria had long wondered what it would be like to date her best friend. They were so close as friends; taking the next step in their relationship was a thought that had often crossed her mind. After their night together, though, Gloria fell deeply and uncontrollably in love with Daniel.

When Daniel held her in his arms, Gloria felt like the only woman in the world that night. Before, Gloria never imagined the level of tenderness and consideration a lover could possess. As if scales had been lifted from her eyes and an epiphany bestowed, Gloria was awakened to the knowledge that Daniel was the only man she wanted to be with for the rest of her life.

The only thoughts on her mind had to do with crafting ways in which she could spend as much time with him as possible. She planned special events that she knew would appeal to Daniel and, together, the two of them attended video game tournaments, professional wrestling matches and monster movie marathons.

But, as Gloria soon noted, boys are quite ham-fisted at deciphering exactly what a girl is thinking.

Daniel was confused by these outings. While Gloria was trying to connect with Daniel and show him that she cared about his interests, Daniel only saw a girl desperately trying to reassert herself as a friend – a friend with no interest in walks on the beach or romantic dinners.

Both of the lovers were petrified of sharing exactly how they felt with the other and so both were doomed to a yearning for something more, something that was tragically in their reach.

Daniel, desperately trying to tell her how he felt, spent one night creating a mix-tape he thought could give voice to the feelings he found himself unable to vocalize.
When it came time to give it to her, though, he found he was unable to make the transaction he so desperately wanted to.  What if he inadvertently ruined their friendship with the tape and drove her away forever? Daniel could bear to live a life that Gloria was not a part of.

So, taking his cue from what he perceived Gloria was doing, Daniel buried the mix tape in his closet and reestablished the bounds of their friendship.

He pushed his feelings away, pushing Gloria away in the process, and sank into the role of the cantankerous best friend – a role he felt doomed to inhabit for the rest of his life.

Chapter 6

As he walked back to his apartment in the dark, Daniel began to cry.

Gloria had been in love with Daniel all this time. Had been. Not anymore. She was gone and it was because of magic.

Daniel was furious.

It was because of the magician’s prodding that he had acted up and embarrassed Gloria. If it wasn’t for the magic show, he could be still be sharing a drink with Gloria right now, straining to build up the reserve of courage that it would take for him to reveal his feelings to the one he loved.

In his moment of self-pity, it never even occurred to Daniel that if it wasn’t for the magic show, he may never have even known how Gloria really felt about him.

No. The only thing that crossed Daniel’s mind right now was the fact that a magic show had stolen his chance at love.

And where had Gloria found out about the magic show? That damned candle store. If it wasn’t for the candle store and its bulletin board, Gloria’s birthday could have been spent in a bar or to at movies. They could have had a pleasant night and Daniel could still be hanging out with the girl that owned his heart and soul.

As Daniel danced around the “what ifs” and “should have beens,” he spotted a large rock on the ground. Picking it up and beganing to toss it back and forth between his hands, he walked toward Main Street — toward the candle shop.

It wasn’t too hard to locate the store. It was right next door to the small Italian restaurant where Gloria worked as a waitress on the weekends. As Daniel gazed at the storefront, his mind clouded by a combination of alcohol and anger, Gloria’s face swam through his head.
She loved this store and the people who owned it. The idea of Daniel throwing a rock through the window of the store would make Gloria furious. It would hurt her.

Still though, Daniel was consumed with hate at the moment. He honestly hoped that this petty act of vandalism would give him a feeling of calm. If he could take out his frustrations on the store’s window, Daniel truly believed that he could fall asleep content in the fact that he had had his revenge.

Besides, nobody would see Daniel’s actions. Gloria would never have to know who threw the rock into the candle store. In the morning he could sort through all his problems and go about trying to win Gloria back.

Daniel lifted the rock and considered the possibilities. He remembered the future he had seen in Gloria’s eyes, the first day he met her.

In that future, Gloria had been there. By his side, the girl he loved.

This shop had taken that future away from him. It had robbed Daniel of his happiness.

Acting on autopilot, Daniel threw the rock with all his might at the window. As the glass shattered, making more sound then Daniel had ever expected, he felt a rush of emotions flow through him.

Surprisingly, none of the emotions were the feelings of contentment or peace he had hoped for.

Now flooded with guilt and startled by the noise of breaking glass, Daniel ran home without stopping, his alcohol buzz non-existant.

If Daniel had stopped, though, and turned around, he may have seen one very angry Wiccan staring at him from behind the shattered window of the candle store.

He didn’t turn around, though and he did not see the angry shopkeeper.

Instead, Daniel ran home and climbed into bed.

Chapter 7

Daniel did not sleep as well as he had hoped he would.

In his dreams, he found himself standing in the middle of a street. The heavy hood of darkness surrounded him, covering the world with cruel-looking shadows. In the distance, Daniel could see a solitary streetlamp, its light offering a sanctuary to the oblivion that threatened to engulf the world.

As Daniel stood, looking at the streetlamp, he saw a figure step into the light. While the glare of the lamp obscured her face, Daniel thought he could tell that the figure was Gloria.

He began to walk towards her.

With every step he took, though, Daniel found himself tripping over his own feet. With every stumble, Gloria seemed to fade further and further into the darkness.

Daniel bent down to check if his shoelaces had become untied. As he looked at his feet, though, Daniel was shocked to see that he wasn’t wearing his normal tennis shoes.

Instead, strapped to his feet were the stiletto heels that he had seen on Dr. Suspendo earlier that night.

Daniel awoke in a cold sweat. He was lying in his bed, the sheets crumpled around his legs.

As he pulled himself out of bed to start a shower, Daniel glanced at himself in the mirror. He looked as bad as he felt. Puffy eyes stared back at him as his head dully throbbed.

Daniel quickly showered and got dressed.

As soon as he opened his bedroom door, Daniel saw Brian, his roommate, lounging on the living room’s only couch. A program about surfers was playing on the television.

Brian’s long blonde hair had fallen over his eyes and Daniel could not tell if he was actually watching the show or had fallen into a nap.

“Don’t you have class, Bri?” Daniel asked.

“TV’s far more interesting,” Brian responded without moving from his position. “So… How was last night?”

Oh God. Last night! Daniel was suddenly struck with the memories of his fight with Gloria.

“Don’t ask.”

“That bad, huh? Want to talk about it?”

“No time. I have class in half an hour. Not all of us can skip lectures for a week and still pull off a 4.0.”

Daniel plopped down on the lazy boy recliner that sat in the corner of the room.

“Have you seen my shoes?”

“You left them by the front door,” Brian said. “Despite the fact that I keep telling you to take them to your room. You, my friend, are a fucking slob.”

“Yeah? Well, you can suck this slob’s hard one.”

“You wish, stud,” Brian said from the couch, giving Daniel a smirk as he crossed over to the front door to get his shoes.

Sure enough, the shoes were where Brian had said they would be. Daniel put his right foot into its shoe. Before he could lace it up, though, the shoe slipped off his foot.

Daniel picked up the shoe again and put it back on his foot. It slipped off again.

“OK, Nice one. Seriously though, where are my shoes?”

“They’re right there,” Brian said, still looking at the TV.

“Seriously? Are you that hard up for a prank that you’re willing to buy a pair of clown shoes that look exactly like mine?”

“I didn’t buy shit. Those shoes are the same ones you took off when you came home last night.”
“Then what did you do to them? If you permanently stretched them out, you owe me know shoes.”

“I didn’t do a thing,” Brian said, finally exerting enough energy to turn and look at Daniel.

“The shoe. It’s too big.”

Sure enough, the shoe had seemingly grown several sizes too big.

“Did you get it wet?” Brian, ever the practical one, asked.

“Shoes shrink when they get wet, they don’t grow.”

Daniel lifted the shoe up to his face to inspect it. It was identical to the shoe Daniel always wore and didn’t appear to be stretched out or warped.

“Maybe the shoe’s fine. Maybe something’s wrong with your foot,” Brian shot back at Daniel, laughing.

Daniel shrugged off Brian’s statement.

“Yeah … I caught the highly-contagious ‘foot-shrinking disease.’”

But what if something had happened to his feet last night?

He hadn’t really examined either of his feet this morning when he pulled on his socks. Had he lost a toe or two while walking home last night without realizing it?

Daniel delicately pulled off his sock and examined his foot.

Something was definitely wrong.

The first thing that Daniel noticed when he stared at his foot was the fact that his toenails were painted bright red. He couldn’t believe that he hadn’t noticed the shiny coat of paint when he woke up; the color was immaculately applied.

The other thing that stood out about his foot was the fact that the nails were all cut.

Daniel, while not an extreme slob, was a bit on the slow side when it came to personal hygiene. In addition to rarely brushing his teeth, never combing his hair and not owning an iron, Daniel rarely took time to cut his toenails. Now, looking down at his foot, Daniel saw that each nail was professionally trimmed. Upon closer inspection, Daniel also noticed the fact that there was no longer any hair on his toe knuckles and that the patches of athlete’s foot that Daniel had struggled with all of his adult life were gone.

“This is one fucked up prank? Did you give me a pedicure?”

Brian glanced over at Daniel, took one look at the foot in question and burst out laughing.

“Oh. My. God, Daniel,” Brian managed between laughs. “I didn’t know you were into that sort of thing. How very … metro of you.”

“I’m serious, man. Why did you do this?”

Daniel attempted to chip away at the paint on his nails but the coat was too thick.

“I didn’t do anything,” Brian said. “I didn’t even go into your room last night.”

“Well, who did?”

“I don’t know. “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”? The Pedicure Fairy? Whoever it was did an outstanding job. Best prank ever. You’re foot even looks daintier.”

Daniel had to agree with Brian. His foot did look smaller.

“Well whatever you did – my shoes won’t fit anymore. I hope you’re happy … Jackass.”

“I’m telling you. As much as I wish I could take credit, I didn’t do it.”

“Well my feet didn’t do this themselves.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Brian, trying to stifle his laughter. “You’re going to be late for class.”

“I know, I know. I don’t know what I’m going to do though. My shoes don’t fit. They’re at last a couple sizes too big.”

“I think I have some that might fit,” Brian said.

He bolted up from the couch and ran upstairs into his room. He came down a few minutes later holding a pair of bright neon-green flip flops.

“Very funny, asshole. I can’t wear those. My toes will show and I can’t get this paint off.”

“Wear the flip flops over your socks, genius. Or don’t. It’s up to you? Would you rather look like a geek or a chick?”

Daniel nodded his head, seeing Brian’s point, and slipped on the flip-flops. They fit perfectly.

“These are way too small to be yours,” Daniel noticed. “Whose are they?”

“My ex-girlfriend’s,” Brian replied, struggling to hold back giggles. “They look better on you then they did on her, though. She had elephant toes.”

“Asshole,” Daniel snapped back, blushing.

“You’re blushing, you little sprinkle-genie,” Brian said between laughs.

As Daniel walked out the door, Brian punched him lightly on the leg.

“Don’t forget to buy some nail polish remover on your way back to class.”

“Yeah. Thanks,” Daniel said as he walked out the door, feeling very, very confused.

Chapter 8

As Daniel walked the few blocks from his apartment to campus, his flip flops clacking on the sidewalk, he attempted to call Gloria on her cell phone. After trying five times and only reaching her voicemail, Daniel finally decided to leave a message.

“Gloria please call me back. I’m very sorry. I was extremely drunk last night and more importantly I was stupid. I know that doesn’t excuse my behavior but I just want you to know that I didn’t mean to do any of the things I did or say any of the things I said and I’m very sorry. I want to talk to you, though. About what you told me. It’s very important that I talk to you. I have something I want to tell you too but I don’t want to tell it to your voicemail. Please. Just call me back.”

Out of breath from his verbal sprint, Daniel hung-up, hoping that Gloria would show him some kind of mercy. He truly was sorry for what he did the previous night – all of it.

He knew that he had acted irrational and that if he were only given a second chance, he would show Gloria how he really felt.

As he arrived in his class and took his seat, Daniel’s mind began to wander. He thought about the magic show, the magician’s odd attempt to hypnotize him and the current state of his feet. He thought about his act of vandalism at the candle shop and he thought about his argument with Gloria and the revelation that she loved him. He thought about how he loved her. As he thought about all of those things, his mind began to drift and before he knew it, he was asleep.

As he napped, Daniel once again began to dream.

He found himself once again wearing the magician’s stiletto pumps, standing in the middle of the same darkened street.

In this dream, however, Daniel found that he had no problem walking in the shoes. In fact, he hardly noticed them as he began to walk faster, trying to close he gap between him and Gloria.

Daniel called out to the girl, but she did not answer.

He was beginning to make out the details on the girl’s face when he began to notice a pressure on his chest. He found himself having trouble breathing, feeling as if he was being constricted.

Daniel looked down and saw that he was covered from the neck down with a shiny black rubber suit. The material clung to his body like a second skin. It was tight and getting tighter. It felt as if the material was shrinking and in the process, crushing Daniel. He vainly struggled to remove the material, clawing at it with his hands.

Just as Daniel began to feel his rib cage crack, he heard a voice calling his name.

“Mr. Huzzbath. Mr. Huzzbath. Mr. Huzzbath!”

Daniel slowly opened his eyes, not looking forward to being embarrassed by the professor, who was known to be somewhat of a hard-ass.

“Do you really feel my class is the best place to catch up on your beauty sleep?” the professor asked.

“No sir.”

“Why then are you doing it?”

“I had a rough night last night and I’m just really tir-”

“Rhetorical question Mr. Huzzbath. I don’t really care about your personal life. I do, however, care about students sleeping in my class. It makes me look … boring. I’m not boring you, am I Mr. Huzbath?”

“No, sir.”
“Once again, a rhetorical question. I know I’m not boring you. I’m an incredible teacher.”

The class began to laugh and Daniel recalled another crowd of people who had laughed at him not too long ago.

“Why don’t you go ahead and leave my class Mr. Huzzbath.”

“I’m okay, sir,” Daniel said. “I’m wide awake now. I couldn’t fall asleep if I wanted to.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want you in my class today. Go home and get some sleep. And why you’re there, why don’t you change into some clothes that fit. What is it with your generation and baggy clothes?”

Daniel, confused about the professor’s last statement, did not move.

“I’m serious Mr. Huzzbath. Leave. Get out of my room. NOW! Come back when you’re able to stay awake for my lectures.”

Daniel gathered his books and stood up. It was then he realized what the professor was talking about. His clothes draped over his body like a circus tent. Somehow, in the time between when Daniel had fallen asleep and when he had woken up, his clothes had grown several sizes too large.

Startled, Daniel attempted to quickly leave class. He didn’t make it far before his pants, far too big now, fell below his waist.

The class erupted in laughter as Daniel attempted to hitch up his pants while leaving the room. Once in the hallway, Daniel spotted the nearest restroom and ducked inside.

What was going on? First his shoes and now his clothes? Daniel stared at himself in the mirror. Something was wrong. He looked different.

It wasn’t his face. The same puffy eyes stared back at him as they had in the morning. His hair was still the same close-cropped Steve McQueen look that he had worn since high school.

Wait.

His height. He had shrunk. Staring at himself in the mirror, Daniel knew that he was somehow shorter then he had been this morning. While normally Daniel stood 6’1”, he now looked to be approximately 5’4”. That’s why his clothes hung around him like a poncho. That’s why the cuffs of his legs were pooled around his feet like a dress. His clothes had not grown; he had shrunk.

It wasn’t just his height. He was smaller all around –in proportion to his height. He looked like a shrinky-dink clone of his former self.

How? Why? Daniel ran through all the possible illness that could possibly cause rapid human shrinkage but couldn’t think of any that might fit the bill. He needed answers and he needed them fast.

Daniel knew a person who might be able to give them to him – even if he didn’t look forward to calling her.
Staring at himself in the mirror, it didn’t appear that he had much of a choice unless he wanted to apply for the position of Ant-Man sometime soon.

It was time for Daniel to call his mom.

Chapter 9

Daniel carefully lowered himself onto the toilet seat in the campus bathroom, noticing how, when seated on the commode, his feet seemed to barely touch the ground. As he held his phone to his ear, he took his mind off of his current condition by counting the times the phone ringed.

One, two, three.

Daniel tried to telepathically urge his mom to pick up the phone.

Daniel’s mother was the nurse at an elementary school back home. While not a doctor, his mom had been the primary source of medical diagnoses for most of Daniel’s youth. With one look, Mrs. Huzzbath could tell exactly what was wrong with her son and her prescription usually didn’t involve expensive medication or a needle. Soups, spices and herbs were Mrs. Huzzbath’s cures of choice.

When Daniel went to college, he continued to use his mother for medical consultation, relying on her over-the-phone diagnosis for any cold or fever that would pop up.

“Hello,” a voice on the other end of the phone said.

“Mom, it’s me.”

“Becca? Is something wrong at school?”

“Not Becca, mom. It’s Daniel.”

“Daniel? Oh honey, you sound terrible. For a minute you sounded like your sister. Is something wrong? Do you need money?”

“No, I don’t need any money. I need some medical consultation.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I feel funny mom. Something’s wrong with me and I don’t know what it is. I’m shrinking.”

“You’re what?”
“Shrinking, mom. I’m becoming smaller.”

“Like your personality? Is this some kind of euphemism for depression? Are you on drugs?”

“No. I’m not on drugs. I’m physically shrinking. I think I’m 5’4.”

“No. You’re more around 6’1”.”

“That what I’m trying to say. I’m loosing my height.”

“Well I told you that you should have been exercising more. All those computer games are wasting away your muscles.”
“No mom. I’m serious. I am loosing inches.”

“Oh honey. I’m sure it’s just your posture. If you stand up straight you’ll probably notice that the girls will even pay more attention to you. You’ll be fine. So… How was your friend’s birthday party?”

“It was a disaster mom. But really, I’m serious about me shrinking.”

“Honey, you’re probably just upset about whatever happened last night. Just put it out of your mind and get some rest. Drink some chicken soup and stand up straight. You’ll be back to yourself in no time.”

“I don’t think that’s going to help Mom.”

“Well then why don’t you go to the health clinic? I don’t know why you bother to call me if you’re not going to listen to what I have to say. I should start charging you for medical consultation.”

“I’m sorry mom. You’re right. I’m probably just tired. I’m going to skip my classes today and go home.”

“You know I don’t approve of you skipping classes … but you do sound really worked up. Your voice hasn’t sounded this bad since you hit puberty. Go home and take a nap. I promise you. Everything seems better after a good, long nap.”

“Okay mom. Love you.”
“Love you too sweetie.”

Daniel hung up the phone and put it into his pocket. He stood up and walked out of the stall where he had been hiding. Looking at himself in the mirror, it was obvious that something was wrong and that a nap and a bowl of soup wouldn’t be the cure he needed.

He was going to have to go to the health clinic. First, though, he needed some new clothes. He could barely move without tripping over his pant legs.

He needed to go home.

Chapter 10

As Daniel walked into his apartment he noticed that Brian was still passed out on the couch. Not wanting to wake him, Daniel quietly snuck past him and entered his own room. He frantically scanned the closet, searching for anything that would fit him.

He held up an old t-shirt he had kept from high school and put it over his frame. It hung down to his knees like a nightgown. His pants were worse. Even his basketball shorts hung loose around his waist. When he put them on, Daniel found himself having to constantly tighten the drawstring or else they would fall to his feet.

Just when it looked like he was out of luck and would have to spend the day swimming in a sea of oversized fabric, Daniel spotted a gym bag on the floor of the closet.

It was Gloria’s.

Last week, after a visit to the gym, Gloria had come over to visit Daniel. She had forgotten her bag when she left. Daniel had been meaning to give the bag to Gloria but had forgotten to take it with him every time he left the house. With Gloria no longer talking to him, Daniel wondered if he would ever get another chance.

Suddenly, a thought popped into Daniel’s head. Daniel tried to push the thought, repellent and frightening as it was, away. But, as he looked at the clothes hanging on his rack, Daniel realized he didn’t have much of a choice. He knew in his heart that the bag very well could contain the only outfit in the entire apartment that would fit him.

Unzipping the bag, Daniel peaked in, unable to remember what it contained.

Inside, along with a small collection of make-up and jewelry, was a light blue button-up blouse, a pair of designer jeans and a bra. Daniel picked up the blouse and the jeans and held them up to his body.

He didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when he saw that they were a perfect fit.

The implications frightened Daniel.

Gloria had a small, petite frame. As a joke Daniel had once tried to wear Gloria’s jacket and had ripped the fabric’s seams.

The thought that some strange illness had caused Daniel to shrink to the point where he could fit into Gloria’s wardrobe was scary indeed.

His hands shaking, Daniel buttoned the blouse over his torso. It was loose in certain places and tighter in others, but otherwise it fit better then anything else in Daniel’s closet. The fabric felt smooth on his skin. He could feel his arms begin to sweat a little bit, nervous that Brian would walk in at any moment and see him wearing a girl’s shirt.

The jeans, on the other hand, weren’t as comfortable. Besides the indignity of having flowers embodied on his back pocket, the jeans didn’t quite fit Daniel.

While they hung loosely from his behind and waist, his legs seemed to strain against the fabric. He uncomfortably shifted the jeans around, hoping to at least hide the tight outline of his crotch, his camel tail, from showing.

He looked at himself in the mirror and groaned. He looked like a caricature of some gay high school drama club member.

He had no idea what was going on with his body but he knew that he needed some answers. He needed to go to the clinic. First, though, he needed a nap.

His mother was right. Daniel was extremely tired and he knew that after a nap he would be able to think with a clear head and get to the bottom of this mystery.

So, still dressed in the blouse and the jeans, Daniel climbed into bed and pulled the sheets over his head.

Chapter 11

Daniel could feel his muscles throbbing, keeping rhythm with his heartbeat.  His body ached and he was soaked in sweat, the moisture cold and wet against his skin. His mouth, though, was completely dry, as if he had been sucking on a cotton ball until just recently. Lying in bed, Daniel opened his eyes to the world around him.

Judging from the darkness that had crept into the room, several hours had past since Daniel had fallen asleep. As his eyes began to adjust to the lack of light, he noticed that he was not alone. There was movement in the corner of the room; somebody leaning against the wall was watching him.

Even through the dim, Daniel could tell it was his roommate, Brian.

“What the hell are you doing?” Daniel asked, annoyed.

“Watching you sleep.”

“I can tell that. Why?”

“Nothing good on TV,” Brian said. “Is there something wrong with you? You look … different.”

Brian’s concern for his friend showed through his weak attempt at levity.

“I don’t really feel so hot. It feels like I just had my ass kicked by a UFC fighter. I’m sore as hell and not really in the mood to wake up to my roommate gawking at me.”

“Sorry… I was just trying to wake you up.”

“No … I’m sorry. I just don’t feel very well. I guess I drank more then I thought yesterday.”

“That doesn’t look like any hangover I’ve ever seen,” Brian said. “It looks more like you took a bath in Oil of Olay.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Daniel asked, sitting up in his bed.

“You look at least six years younger.”

Daniel shot up and stumbled out of his bed. The distance to the floor took Daniel by surprise. In his post-slumber state, he had forgotten about the fact that he was shrinking.

Jumping over a pile of dirty clothes, Daniel rushed into his bathroom and turned on the light.

When he saw his reflection in the mirror, his first thought was that somebody had taped a picture from his middle school yearbook onto the glass. He had changed so much, looked so different, that Daniel, for a split second, couldn’t believe that he was actually looking at his own face. But as he brought one hand up to his cheek, felt his skin and touched his nose, Daniel realized that the face staring back at him was indeed his own.

The first thing Daniel noticed was that he had seemingly stopped shrinking. He was more or less the same height as he had been when he had fallen asleep. He still managed to look smaller then before though.

His shoulders were shrunken and his arms were thinner, more delicate. What little muscles Daniel had once possessed were almost non-existent.

Gloria’s jeans, while previously ill-fitting on Daniel, seemed almost snug now. During his nap, Daniel’s hips seemed to have flared out and his ass grown. That couldn’t be possible, though. Could it?

Daniel’s skin, normally patched with at least a day’s worth of stubble, had become smooth, clear. A zit that Daniel had popped the night before had vanished, along with several other pimples that had been in various stages of formation. He lifted a finger to his skin to feel the smoothness of his cheek and noticed that his hands seemed smaller, his fingers looked longer.

“What the heck did you do to yourself, man? You look like you’ve been sneaking some kind of hormones on the side.”

Brian had followed Daniel into the bathroom and was now staring, wide-eyed, at his friend.

Daniel ignored him, shocked into silence by the face that looked back at him from the mirror.

“I know you probably feel like you’re getting older but I think, maybe, you went a bit far with the whole rejuvenation bit. Do you think the ladies are really going to go for that kind of look? You have a face like my kid brother’s.”

Daniel stared at his face. While it was true the decrease in body mass and facial hair made Daniel look younger, his face did not look particularly childlike. Something about his features, though, looked wrong.

“No. I don’t look like your brother,” Daniel said. “I don’t look like anybody’s brother. I look like a girl.”

Brian laughed at Daniel’s ludicrous statement.

“What? A girl? With a face like that? Daniel, my friend, I don’t think you have to worry about anybody asking you to pose for Playboy anytime soon.”

Daniel didn’t laugh at Brian’s joke.

“You’re serious, right?” Brian asked. “How is this possible? What did you do to yourself?”

“I didn’t do anything,” Daniel said, unable to turn away from the mirror. “Last night the magician cursed me or hypnotized me or something. She tried to make me think I was a girl but it didn’t work then. She must have done something to me though because … look at me. Look at my face. Look at my arms. Look at how short I am. Look at my ass!”

“You’re right… it’s not a bad ass,” Brian said, grinning.

Daniel was slightly troubled to find himself blushing.

“What the hell is happing to me?” he wondered out loud. “I need to find Dr. Suspendo.”

“Well, you should take Gloria with you,” Brian said. “She’s been waiting in the living room for almost half an hour.”

“What?”

Daniel turned to Brian, worry in his eyes.

“What is she doing here?”

“She said you were the one who called her.”

“Well, you have to tell her I’m not here.”

“No can do,” Brian said, shaking his head. “I already told her you were in your room sleeping.”

“Well, tell her you couldn’t wake me. Tell her that I’m out like a log. She has to come back later.”

“If I tell her that, she’ll just come in here and try to wake you herself. She said she has to talk to you about something really important.”

“Shit,” Daniel said.

Shit indeed, Daniel thought. What was he going to do? There was no way on earth that Gloria could ever see Daniel right now. Not when he looked the way he looked.

“Uh… Just give me about five minutes and then let her come in.”

“Five minutes it is,” Brian said. “You might want to change into something else though. That shirt looks like it belongs to a chick. And are those flowers on your ass?”

“Just go and tell her.”

Daniel rubbed his eyes and wondered what was he going to do.

Chapter 12

Gloria was getting tired of waiting for Brian to wake Daniel. As she sat on the couch in the living room, she imagined the two of them inside the bathroom, rehearsing some kind of apology; one she was sure Daniel hoped would win her forgiveness.

Gloria had not come to forgive Daniel.

It wasn’t that she was still terribly upset about Daniel’s behavior the previous night. She had had time to cool down and think things over. Daniel had drunk too much beer and had acted like an idiot – it was embarrassing but it was not the end of the world.

In a different situation, Gloria could have even eventually laughed off the whole night, teasing Daniel for years to come about his inability to hold his alcohol.

While she had forgiven Daniel in her heart, Gloria was not ready to tell him that.

She had, after all, come to tell Daniel that their friendship was over.

Last night had changed everything. Last night, Gloria had opened herself up and revealed her vulnerabilities to Daniel. As much as she hated realizing it, she knew that there was no going back. Her relationship with Daniel could never be the same.

This was not the first time Gloria had faced a similar decision. After they had made love several months ago, Gloria had been faced with a choice. She could move on, try to forget Daniel. Instead, she chose to hide her feelings for the sake of their friendship. It had been painful for Gloria to be so close to the person she loved, yet remain so far. She had worked hard, though, and had even come close to fooling herself into believing that she no longer was in love with him. Things had been awkward for a while, but Gloria had managed to bottle up her feelings, content with letting them rest on a shelf.

The bottle was open now. Daniel knew how Gloria felt and their relationship had changed forever. Gloria knew that there were only two possible roads that lay ahead as far as Daniel and her were concerned.

Daniel could either choose to ignore Gloria’s confession and pretend as if the conversation had never happened or he could decide, out of pity, to attempt a relationship with his best friend.

Gloria truly believed that a relationship built out of pity could never end well. Eventually Daniel would grow tired of her and the relationship would end, along with their friendship. Either way, in the end, Gloria could only see pain and hurt in her future.

It never crossed Gloria’s mind that Daniel was in love with her. Such a thought was a fantasy that Gloria could not afford to indulge. She was tired of bottled emotions and repressed emotions. She knew that life was too short to invite pain and suffering into it.

And so, Gloria had chosen to avoid the uncertainty, the awkwardness between friends. The cat was out of the bag and she had decided she would rather cut her losses now then have to deal with the inevitability slow and painful death of their friendship.

She heard the door to Daniel’s room open and saw Brian walk out.

“Daniel’s getting dressed,” Brian said. “He said to give him five minutes.”

“Okay,” Gloria said, not moving from the couch.

Brian walked over to the living room and slumped into the recliner.

“Happy birthday by the way,” Brian said.

“Thanks,” Gloria replied, the sour expression on her face unwavering.

“What’s the matter with you two? Did something happen last night?”

“We had a fight.”

“Well, I hope you two find a way to kiss and make up. I hate to see the two of you get your panties twisted up over a little thing like a fight.”

“Look, Brian, I appreciate you trying to help out and all, but I’m not really in the mood to talk with you about this right now.”

“Okay, fine … it’s just that I’d hate to see you hurt Daniel. That boy is head over heals in love with you and -”

“What?” Gloria interrupted.

“In love with you. Daniel’s in love with you and you’re in love with him and – Jesus, it’s like a Jane Austin novel or something. All the unrequited love in the air is suffocating. Why the two of you haven’t hooked up yet is beyond me.”

Could Brian really be telling the truth, Gloria thought. Could she really allow herself the chance to believe him? Did it even make a difference?

“I really need to talk to Daniel,” Gloria said, getting up and crossing over to his room.

Brian shot up and rushed over to the door, blocking her way.

“I really don’t think it’s been five minutes yet,” he said. “We should really give him his five minutes.”

“I don’t care. I need to talk to him now.”

“He’s probably still getting changed.”

Gloria pushed Brian aside.

“It’ll be fine,” she said, opening the door.

She braced herself as she walked into the room. There was nobody inside. Daniel’s room was empty. She checked in the bathroom and in the closet; but he was not hiding anywhere.

Brian stood by the doorway, nervously gnawing on his cuticles.

“I thought you said he was sleeping?” Gloria asked. “Where is he?”

“Maybe he flushed himself down the toilet,” Brian offered.

Gloria was about to leave when she noticed the window curtains fluttering in the breeze.

“I can’t believe he snuck outside through the window just so he wouldn’t have to deal with me.”

“But he was the one who told me to let you in… He must have decided to go on to the doctor by himself.”

“The doctor?”

“Yeah… something was totally wrong with him.”

“You’re lying,” Gloria said.

Brian was probably lying about the way Daniel felt as well, she thought. Gloria felt sick to her stomach.

“No, seriously, I’m telling the truth. He told me he had to go see a doctor. He’s really sick. I mean, jeeze, you should see what he looks like.”

Gloria’s eyebrows rose. What could be wrong with Daniel?

“It’s close to ten. What kind of doctor is he going to see at this time of the night?”

“I don’t know what kind of doctor he is, but his name sounded really weird. Like a comic book villain or something. Dr. Amazo or Mysterio or ..”

“Suspendo?”

“That’s the one! He sounds like a Batman villain, right?”

“More like a magician.”

What on Earth would Daniel be doing going to see a magic show, Gloria wondered as she grabbed her coat from the living room couch. It didn’t matter. If what Brian said was true, she needed to have a very long talk with Daniel.

Chapter 13

Daniel sat in the back of the community center and watched Dr. Suspendo’s routine. He had not seen any of her act the previous night before he had been thrown out. Now, though, he studied every trick, every slight of hand for proof that he was dealing with somebody with real power. He was looking for magic with every new set piece.

None of her tricks were particularly mysterious, though. She guessed people’s ages, pulled rabbits out of a hat; it was the standard set of novice tricks taught to beginning magicians.

During one point in her show, she hypnotized a volunteer into thinking that he was a chicken. As the volunteer stood on stage and clucked, Daniel wondered if the man would begin to sprout feathers the next day.

Probably not.

Try as he might, Daniel could not see anything remotely magical about Dr. Suspendo’s performance. She was a normal magician – albeit one who happened to have a really good body and didn’t mind dressing to show it off.

That was the other problem that Daniel chewed over while he watched the magician perform.

As Daniel watched Dr. Suspendo do her show, he found himself paying special attention to her body. Unlike the previous night, though, where he had lusted over the woman’s curves, tonight he found himself feeling slightly jealous of her Amazonian stature. No matter how much he tried, Daniel couldn’t help but feel slightly envious as he watched the other men in the crowed drool over the good doctor. A part of him, very small yet still present, wished the men would drool over him. Daniel needed to chase those thoughts away. He raised his hand and summoned a waitress, hoping for a stiff drink.

As a young girl walked up to Daniel, he found himself asking for a cosmopolitan. A cosmo? He hated those drinks. Either way, the waitress laughed and asked to see an ID. Daniel fumbled in the pocket of a giant overcoat that he wearing, hoping to hide the fact that he was still dressed in Gloria’s blouse and jeans, and pulled out his wallet. He handed the waitress his driver’s license.

“Honey, you should really give this back to your big brother. If he found out you stole his wallet, you’re libel to get a smack down but good.”

Daniel thought for a moment about protesting but realized there was no point. What would he say? The waitress was right – he looked nothing like the picture on his driver’s license.

“How about I get you a nice soda instead?” the waitress asked. “It’s on the house.”

“Thanks,” Daniel said. “Can you also do me a favor?”

“Depends on what the favor is,” the waitress replied.

“Can I meet Dr. Suspendo after the show?”

“You want her autograph or something?”

“Something like that,” Daniel said, slumping slightly in his chair.

“I’m sure we can arrange that. Why don’t you wait by the bar after the show? I’ll be right back with your soda pop.”

The waitress walked away, ready to tell her friends at the bar about the kid who tried to buy booze from her.

Daniel pulled the coat tighter over his body and went back to watching the show.

As the show wrapped up and Dr. Suspendo said her farewells to the audience, Daniel slowly got up from his seat and crossed to the bar. He took a seat at the stool and waited. As the crowd began to empty the theater and silence filled the air, Daniel spotted Dr. Suspendo as she slowly made her way to the bar. She was no longer dressed in her stage outfit. Instead, she wore a flowing emerald green dress that sparkled in the dimming lights of the theater. A see-through shawl was draped around her shoulders, half covering a shining gold pendent that hung from her neck.

Daniel recognized the pendent right away. He continued to stare at it as the doctor approached him and took a seat next to him. She whispered a drink order to the bartender and turned to Daniel.

“Whatcha got for me to sign, hon?”

Daniel continued to stare at her pendent, not moving. He could feel a surge of anger flaring up in his gut, threatening to burst free.

Dr. Suspendo stared right back at Daniel, looking deep into his eyes. As she stared at him, something clicked. She saw something, if only for a brief second, in his face that she recognized. Her eyes lit up.

“Danielle? Oh my God, it is you. What the heck happened to you? You look … well, you look like a Danielle.”

“My name is Daniel,” Daniel said, choking back his anger.

“Right. Right. Daniel. Sorry.”

“What did you do to me?”

“Me? I didn’t do anything to you. Stand up, though, let me take a look at you. Take off the coat, please.”

“No thanks,” he said, not moving. “I prefer it on. Yesterday you did something to me on the stage. I want you to undo it now.”

“I didn’t do a thing to you. I mean I tried to hypnotize you but obviously that didn’t work out as planned. That’s the problem with hypnosis. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Let me tell you though. You were a real headache yesterday. Even after you got kicked out of the theater, you ruined the show. It took me forever to win the audience back after that little stunt you pulled. You couldn’t have just played along?”

“You did something to me. Something magic.”

“I thought magic didn’t exist?” Gloria asked, adopting a mock sneer.

Daniel ripped off the coat.

“You made your point, you bitch. Magic’s real. Look at me! Look at what you did to me.”

Gloria’s mouth dropped as she looked at Daniel’s frail frame, his shrunken demeanor.

“Shhh, quiet down and put your coat back on. You’re grossing me out.”

She took a big gulp of her drink and rubbed her eyes.

Daniel put his coat back on and slumped over onto the bar’s counter. He put his head in his hands, his eyes beginning to tear up.

“Listen, Daniel. I didn’t do anything to you. I’m not a real magician. I perform illusions – as you did such a good job of pointing out yesterday. But, obviously something has happened to you.”

“No shit.”

“I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Magic does exist.”

Daniel looked up at Dr. Suspendo.

“Not everybody who claims to practice it actually does, though,” the doctor said.

“And I guess you’re one of those frauds.”

“Guilty as charged. I was never any good at the stuff. Didn’t have the concentration. I do look good in latex, though, right?”

Daniel ignored her.

“Obviously you ran into somebody who does have control over magic. Judging from the shape you’re in, it looks to me like you’ve been cursed. My guess is you probably pissed someone off and they gave you a nice little present in return. It happens a lot more then you think. People are always getting turned into toads and rabbits.”

“Yeah right! If that was happening, people would hear about it in the news.”

“Well that’s the thing about magic and science. Science and order have a way of protecting themselves. Think of magic as a virus. Order sees magic as an infection. When magic happens, order reshapes reality to hide and defuse the infection. When a person is turned into a rabbit, reality reshapes itself to make it seem as if the person who had been cursed was always a rabbit.”

“You mean that…”

“Yeah, when your transformation ends, reality will shift around your new form. Nobody will remember that you were ever anything else. Not even you. The only person who will remember the way things used to be is the person who put the curse on you in first place.”

“That’s the shittiest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Depends on your perspective.”

“What does that mean?”

“Well, it’s not like it’s going to hurt and you’re not going to die. You’re just going to change. And hey, it would seem you’ll still be human. There are a lot of rabbits and toads out there that can’t say the same. Maybe in this other reality you’ll even have a better life.”

“I don’t want a better life. I want my life.”

“Well, unless you can find the person who cursed you and get them to take it back, you don’t have much of a choice.”

“Who would put a curse on me like this?”

“Probably somebody really powerful. That’s some impressive magic you’ve got coursing through you. I can feel it from over here. You should actually feel kinda special to have pissed off somebody with such raw power.”

“Thanks … I’m overflowing with pride. Isn’t there anything else you can help me with?”

“Honestly? You’re not going to like what I have to say.”

“Just say it.”

“You should probably just go with the flow. Find a nice place to lay back and let the magic finish its course. The harder you fight the more pain you are going to be in. Do yourself a favor and take the time you have left to make your peace with those around you and get ready for a new beginning. Think of it as a fresh start. Maybe in the next life you won’t be such an asshole.”

Daniel slumped in his chair and stared at his hands. Dr. Suspendo finished her drink, leaned over and gave Daniel a peck on the cheek.

“I for one look forward to meeting the new you,” the doctor said. “I bet you’re going to be a real cutie-pie.”

And with that, the doctor left Daniel.

Daniel, alone and lost in his thoughts, continued to sit at the bar.

Time past and more and more people left the theater. And then, Daniel heard a voice calling out his name.

“Daniel?” a voice softly asked from behind him. “Daniel, is that you?”

Daniel swiveled around in his chair and faced the source of the voice. It was Gloria.

“Oh my god,” Gloria said, dropping her purse onto the floor. “What happened to you?”

“Hey Gloria,” Daniel softly said. “Surprise? I guess we have some stuff to talk about.”

Chapter 14

Neither Daniel nor Gloria spoke as they sat on the park bench outside of the theater.

Daniel had finished explaining to Gloria everything he had learned from Dr. Suspendo and he decided the best course of action was to allow Gloria a few minutes to soak everything in.

As they sat in silence, Daniel stared at the sky, his heart heavy with the news he had recently learned.

Gloria stared at Daniel.

Gloria could not believe that the person she was looking at was really her best friend. A part of her hoped that this was some kind of cruel joke. Better a prank then the truth.

Certainly there were pieces of Daniel that she still recognized in the strange face that she stared at. His eyes, mouth and ears had not changed much, although they seemed newly boyish in conjunction with the rest of his body. His hair was still the short, close cropped style that Daniel had worn since she met him, though it now seemed to be slightly longer in combination with Daniel’s smaller head.

She couldn’t get the impression out of her mind that she was looking at Daniel’s younger brother. Or sister, as the case may be.

Gloria finally decided to break the silence.

“Who do you think cursed you?”

“I’m not sure,” Daniel replied, his eyes not wavering from their skyward gaze.
As Daniel watched the tiny lights of an airplane cross the sky, he couldn’t help but feel that he did have an idea about who might have cursed him.

Daniel had not forgotten about the rock that he had thrown through the candle shop window. Although he did not see any witnesses, could someone have seen him? Could he have upset someone with power?

Although he felt that his drunken antics were a strong clue towards uncovering the source of his curse, Daniel was not quite ready to admit his crime to Gloria.

“What are you going to do?” Gloria asked, still staring at Daniel.

As Daniel shifted uncomfortably under Gloria’s gaze, his coat opened slightly. Gloria caught a glimpse of her own blouse and jeans on Daniel but did not say anything.

“I don’t know,” Daniel said. “The magician told me that there was nothing I could do. She said that I shouldn’t fight it; there was no point.”

“Is that how you feel?” Gloria asked. “Is there nothing in your life worth fighting for?”

Daniel finally turned away from the sky and looked into Gloria’s eyes.

“You know what scares me the most about this whole affair?” he asked. “I’m afraid of forgetting. When reality shifts, I don’t know what will happen. Will I still have the same parents? Will I still be in the same college? How much is my life going to change? What am I going to loose?”
Gloria remained silent.

“I’m afraid of forgetting what you mean to me,” Daniel continued. “After reality shifts, I don’t know what will happen to me but the number one thing that scares me is loosing you. I’m afraid that when my life changes, you won’t be a part of it anymore.”

Her eyes damp with tears, Gloria put a hand on Daniel’s face.

“Maybe we’ll still be best friends,” she said, softly smiling.

“Yeah and maybe we’ll even do each other’s hair,” Daniel bitterly replied.

Daniel couldn’t take it anymore. He was tired of hiding behind stupid jokes. He stood up and faced Gloria.

“Yesterday you told me that you loved me,” he said. “Or maybe that you used to love me. I don’t know. What I do know is that because of some goddamn curse, I may never get the chance to tell you the same thing. I don’t want to loose that chance.”

“What are you saying?”

“I love you, Gloria. I think I always have. I loved you from the day we met. Maybe even before then.”

Though tears were beginning to stream down her face, Gloria could feel herself start to smile.

“You’re smart, sexy and funny. You’re the kindest, most considerate person I’ve ever met. You’ve got beautiful blue eyes that are like an ocean – and by ‘like an ocean’ I mean full of mystery and magic not jelly fish and giant sharks. I could spend days just gazing into your eyes and I would – if I wasn’t so afraid of drowning in them.”

“Daniel-”

“Wait. Let me finish. I’ve wanted to say this for far too long. I have a whole speech memorized.”

Gloria laughed.

“Oh sweet Jesus, your laugh is like a lullaby – soft and soothing and totally infectious. If I could, I’d make it my ringtone and travel the country, putting my phone number in roadside bathroom stalls so that every time some sex-starved trucker called looking for a glory hole I would think of you. You really are the most amazing girl I have ever met – or am ever likely to meet. I love you Gloria and I’m so sorry I drove you away.”

Daniel offered a hand to Gloria, pulling her up so that she stood eye to eye with him.

“You ask me if I have anything worth fighting for,” Daniel said. “The answer is yes. I have you.”

As she rose, Daniel had barely begun to process the fact that they were now the same height before Gloria leaned forward, closed her eyes and kissed him. Hard.

Chapter 15

Daniel and Gloria were walking back to Daniel’s apartment, holding hands, when they began to near the candle shop. Daniel sighed and began to slow down, bringing Gloria to a halt. He looked into her eyes, saw her smile and knew that he had to tell her the truth.

“Gloria, you don’t know how happy I am right now,” he said. “I realize now that I’m willing to fight with all my strength to prevent this curse from overtaking me. I want to be with you for the rest of my life – and not as your girlfriend, but as your boyfriend.”

“We don’t have to talk about this right now,” she said. “Let’s just concentrate on finding out who cursed you.”

“Well, that’s the thing,” Daniel said. “I think I know who cursed me. Last night, after we fought, I did something really bad.”

Gloria frowned.
”What did you do?”

“I kinda broke a window.”
”You broke a window? What are you, Dennis the Menace? Whose window did you break?”
”The candle store’s.”

“What? Why would you break their window?”
“I blamed them for you wanting to go to the show last night. I feel really bad about the whole thing. I was drunk and I was stupid.”
Gloria was starting to look really upset.

“You should feel bad,” she said. “That was a terrible thing to do. But do you really believe that the Leons cursed you? They’re the sweetest couple around.”

“Aren’t they wiccans though?”

“And what? Being wiccan means they cursed you? Wiccans don’t cast spells, they celebrate nature. It’s not like they fly around on broomsticks and make poisonous apples.”

“Well I just talked to a magician who doesn’t perform magic. I can’t afford to rely on assumptions. I have to talk to them. At the very least, I have to go and apologize.”
“Well, I agree with you there. You should also probably pay them back for the window you broke.”

“Whoa… Let’s not go overboard.”

As Daniel and Gloria approached the candle store, they were both shocked to see that the window had already been fixed.

Daniel put a hand up to the glass, surprised to see that it looked good as new.

As Daniel peered into the darkened store, the sudden appearance of a man’s face in the window made him jump back, causing him to fall on his ass.

“We’re closed,” the man said.
”I just need to talk to you real quick,” Daniel pleaded.

“Hey Mr. Leon,” Gloria offered.

“Gloria!”

A wide smile crept over the face of the man on the other side of the window

“Come in, come in.”

Mr. Leon opened the door and let his two visitors in.

“I’m sorry to bother you so late, but my friend has something he would like to tell you,” Gloria said, motioning to Daniel.

The shopkeeper turned to look at the young man who now seemed more like a frightened-looking boy.

“I’m very, very sorry that I broke your window, sir,” Daniel said. “I was drunk and I was stupid and I wasn’t thinking and I want to buy you a new window.”

“It’s a little late to buy me a new window, isn’t it?” the shopkeeper asked, laughing.

“Why are you laughing? I broke your window and I’m so sorry. Please, you’ve got to take this curse off of me.”

“Curse? What curse?”

“The curse that you put on me for breaking your window.”

“Little boy, I am upset to learn you broke my window. It took all morning to install the new one. But you are not the first person to break my window this month. You probably won’t be the last either. We live in the Bible Belt, son. We’re lucky to not be chased out of town with torches. If I was to put a curse on everybody who broke our store window, I wouldn’t have any time to sell candles. I would be hunched over a bubbling caldron all day, no? And besides, what makes you think I can even put a curse on somebody? I’m no warlock, I just sell candles.”

“But you’re Wiccan,” Daniel said, desperation showing through his voice.

“Listen little boy,” the shopkeeper said. “I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m not a Wiccan, I’m a lapsed catholic. So is my wife. This whole Wiccan business sells more candles. Breaks more windows, but sells more candles.”

“You’re not Wiccan?” Gloria asked, slight disappointment showing through her voice.

“No, not so much,” the shopkeeper replied. “Gloria, you should take your little friend home. It’s late and you shouldn’t be indulging children in fantasies of magic and curses.”

“Says the man who pretends to be Wiccan,” Gloria bitterly replied.

“If you didn’t put the curse on me, who did?” Daniel asked. “Why am I changing?”

The shopkeeper laughed.

“For a boy your age, change is a natural process. Everybody goes through puberty. You’re just changing into a man.”

“I’m fairly certain that isn’t the case,” sniffed Daniel.

Gloria thanked the shopkeeper and led Daniel out of the store.

“I can’t believe he’s been lying to me this whole time,” Gloria said, once outside the store.

She turned to look at Daniel and saw the disappointment in his face and felt terrible.

Daniel could feel his hope fizzle away like a soda’s carbonation as it sits out in the sun. His only lead towards removing the curse had been a bust. He no longer had any idea where to begin. It was hopeless.

“What am I going to do now?” Daniel asked.

“I don’t know,” Gloria said. “I guess you can start by making a list of everybody you’ve ever offended and go from there.”

Gloria could see the look of despair in Daniel’s eyes. She could see hopelessness beginning to settle in and it frightened her.

“Listen, why don’t I stay with you tonight? I’ll give you a hand and together we’ll fight this thing. You seemed to have stopped changing for now. Maybe the curse is on hold for a while.”

“Okay,” Daniel said, softly smiling. “I’d really like it if you would spend the night.”

“That settles it then. It’s a slumber party.”

Daniel feigned laughter. Gloria’s joke didn’t seem at all funny in light of the current situation.

“We need to stop by my place first,” Gloria said. “I want to pick up a change of clothes.”

Gloria slipped her hand inside Daniel’s hand and together they walked toward her apartment.

Chapter 16

Gloria and Daniel stayed up late that night. Together, the two of them looked through Daniel’s yearbooks, phone directories and Facebook friend lists, compiling a list of everybody that Daniel had ever been rude to. By three in the morning, though, they had come up with nothing. While there were certainly some people that Daniel rubbed the wrong way, as far as Daniel was concerned nobody on the list seemed to be capable of welding magic. Just to be on the safe side, Daniel would have to apologize to all of them.

It was decided that they would have to resume their search in the morning when Daniel could actually make some phone calls.

“You don’t want to accidently get cursed again if you wake up somebody at three in the morning,” Gloria said.

“You’re right. I just wish there was something else we could do right now. I need to take my mind off of all of this.”
Gloria smiled and put her hand on Daniel’s. She still could not get over how smooth and soft Daniel’s skin was.

She was in love with Daniel; there was no longer any need to hide it it. Could she really pass up a possible last chance to be with the man she loved?

“Daniel?” she asked. “Are you still a man … down there?”

Gloria motioned towards Daniel’s crotch.

Daniel smiled.

“All present and accounted for.”

Softly, Daniel took Gloria and led her to his bed where Daniel and Gloria made love for the second time in their relationship before falling asleep, wrapped in each other’s arms.

Chapter 17

Daniel was the first to wake up. Stepping carefully, so as to not wake Gloria, Daniel slowly crawled out of bed and tiptoed toward the bathroom.

He turned the shower faucet on, letting the water heat up. As Daniel turned to the mirror and saw the face that looked back at him, though, all thoughts of a shower were quickly forgotten.

Thin, delicate eyebrows, beautiful hazel-green eyes, large and luscious lips and a tiny upturned nose. The only thing that remained distinctively Daniel on Daniel’s head was his trademark close-cropped haircut. Otherwise, Daniel appeared to be an older version of his kid sister. From the neck below, he looked like a girl at the earliest stages of puberty — on his chest, the very beginnings of tiny breasts had begun to bud. Petrified and with hands shaking; Daniel slowly peaked inside his boxers. While his penis and testicles were still there, they had shrunk to an almost ridiculous size.

Daniel stood there, half clothed, looking at himself in the mirror. There was no getting around what happened. During the night he had changed and now looked more female then male.

There was no point in hiding it. He had to tell Gloria.

“Gloria,” he whispered. As soon as the name escaped his lips, Daniel shot a hand up to cover his mouth. His voice had adopted the husky purr of a woman.

He heard Gloria stirring in his bedroom. Daniel quickly grabbed a t-shirt from the floor and put it on, hoping to cover up his new developments. The shirt hung like a nightgown over his tiny frame.

Gloria walked into the bathroom, yawning. Catching sight of Daniel, though, she stopped in her tracks and her mouth fell open.

“What happened? I thought the curse had stopped?”

“Apparently it wasn’t finished with me,” Daniel replied.

“Is it over now? Have you finished changing?”

Daniel glanced down at his chest and crotch and sighed.

“You still remember who I’m supposed to be, so I guess I still have some more changes to look forward to.”

“When did this happen?”
“I guess while we were sleeping. I’m starting to think a pattern is emerging. The changes have only happened while I sleep.”

“If you knew that you were going to change, why did you fall asleep last night?”

“I didn’t start to see the pattern until now,” Daniel said, his voice shaking. “I guess there is no denying it now, though.”

“We need to get to work,” Gloria said. “Before we run out of time.”

Chapter 18

Daniel and Gloria spent the morning making phone calls. Daniel, no longer recognizable over the phone, found it necessary to pretend to be his own sister. No matter how many calls he made, he could never get over hearing the foreign voice that was coming from his mouth.

Worse, as the morning went on, Daniel slowly began to realize that the voice in his head, the one that he used to process thoughts and work out problems, also sounded female. In fact, Daniel was starting to forget what his old voice even sounded like.

By lunchtime, Daniel and Gloria had called old friends, enemies, girlfriends and professors – anybody who Daniel could have upset at some point.

As Daniel talked on the phone, he couldn’t help but feel they were on the wrong track. He was calling people whom he hadn’t had any communication with for months, sometimes years. Even if these people had the power to do so, why would they have waited until now to curse him?

Despite his skepticism, Daniel knew that he did not have much else to go on.

Out of all the people that they were able to reach, though, no one confessed to holding a grudge on Daniel. Things were beginning to seem hopeless.

By 2 p.m., the two callers were frustrated, exhausted and hungry.

Daniel needed to stretch his legs. So, as Gloria talked on the phone to Daniel’s freshmen roommate, he walked into the bathroom and stared at his face in the mirror.

Daniel was amazed at how much his face at changed, yet remained oddly familiar.

Daniel noticed that he still had a tiny scar on his forehead, a souvenir from the first time he had attempted to ride a bike without training wheels.

Daniel had fallen from the bike and hit the pavement hard. He remembered his mother softly humming as she dabbed at his forehead with a wet paper towel. She brushed back his long hair and told him not to cry.

Wait – that wasn’t right. Daniel had never had long hair as a child.

Before Daniel could stop and consider what was happening to his memories, he noticed that Gloria was standing beside him.

She walked over and wrapped her arms around Daniel, leaning her head on his shoulder.

“We’ll fight this,” Gloria said. “It’s not over yet.”

Daniel turned to look at Gloria. She smiled at him.

Daniel knew that as long as Gloria was there for him, he could never stop fighting. He would stay awake for the rest of his life if it meant keeping Gloria a part of it. He loved her so much.

Daniel slowly bent his head forward, hoping to kiss Gloria and draw strength from her. Before his lips could touch hers, though, she snapped her head back, a look of disgust momentarily flashing across her face.

“I’m sorry,” Gloria said, realizing what she had just unconsciously done and noting the hurt look on Daniel’s face. “It’s just that … You just don’t look like your old self anymore. You don’t look like Daniel. You don’t sound like Daniel. I know you’re you but you’re just so different. Kissing you like this … it’s different.”

Daniel leaned forward and whispered into Gloria’s ear, trying his best to deepen his voice into some resemblance of his former self.
“I’m still Daniel inside.”
Once again, he attempted to kiss her but once again Gloria leaned away.

“I’m sorry. I just can’t do this. Not now. Not while you look like that.”

Gloria took a few steps back, each step breaking Daniel’s heart more and more.

“I’ll tell you what,” Gloria said, hoping to escape the awkward situation she found herself in. “Why don’t we go get some lunch and then we’ll go back to making calls.”

“I’m not leaving the house looking like this,” Daniel said, frowning.

“OK. Will you be all right if I leave you here alone?” Gloria asked.

Daniel looked away from her and frowned.

“Yeah, go ahead. I’ll be fine. I’m a big boy.”

Gloria, saddened by the turn of events, grabbed some money from her purse and left the room.

As Gloria left, Daniel was flooded with a mixture of emotions.

He was upset that Gloria had left him now, in his moment of need, but he could also sympathize with her. He did not know how he would have been able to react if Gloria had been the one changing into a man. Daniel crossed over to the bed and sat down on the edge. Gloria had gone to get food but Daniel could not imagine eating right now. He felt sick to his stomach.

His life had become some kind of surreal joke. Every sensation that he experienced felt foreign. He felt like he was wearing a thick suit of armor that he needed to shed.

Daniel stared at the purse Gloria had left behind. Daniel hoped Gloria had taken her cell phone with her, in case he needed to get in touch with her. He slowly walked over to the purse and picked it up, looking inside for the phone. It was gone.

Daniel was relived to know he could reach Gloria if he needed to. He began to set the purse back down on the floor but paused. Slowly, as if in a trance, he slung it over one shoulder and walked over to the bathroom mirror.

He made a mock pose in front of the mirror, turning his hip sideways, sticking his chest out and pursing his lips. He bent forward, sticking his ass in the air and holding a hand up to his mouth, in shocked surprise. He stood up, put on a false smile and blew himself a kiss. Daniel was shocked at how convincing he was. If it had been a window and not a mirror that Daniel was looking at, the woman flirtatiously prancing in the mirror would have aroused him.

Is this what he had to look forward to, Daniel thought to himself. Is this who he would become this time tomorrow?

He sat the purse down on the bathroom counter and began to walk away. But then, something shiny from inside the purse caught his attention. It was a tube of lipstick.

Daniel walked back to the purse and picked the lipstick up. He stared at it for a second and then, without thinking, Daniel opened the tube and applied the makeup to his mouth.

Daniel stared at horror at his reflection – his lips were now a dark shade of red. The horror slowly turned to amazement, though, as Daniel saw that he had not only managed to put on the lipstick, but also had performed the task as if he had been doing it all his life.

But then, like a thick cloud slowly dissipating in his mind, Daniel began to remember that his mother had taught him how to apply makeup when he was a young girl. Wait. Something was wrong.

What was happening to his brain, Daniel began to madly wonder.

He stared at himself in the mirror and pursed his lips.

Unconsciously, he found himself looking in Gloria’s purse again. He soon found some powder, eye shadow and mascara. Unable to stop himself, he quickly went to work and before long, he had applied a layer of makeup to his face.

Daniel was surprised by the effect.

The small amount of makeup that Daniel had applied to his face had managed to remove almost every trace of his old life.

He had surrendered his face to the opposite sex. Staring at his reflection, Daniel felt that it was possible that some would even consider him beautiful. As he studied his face, he conceded the fact that he would now turn heads … if it weren’t for his haircut.

Daniel looked down at his bathroom counter and saw a bottle of gel. Squirting off a dollop, Daniel rubbed it into his hair, spiking it upward.

With just the little bit of gel, he had managed to transform his boyish close-cut hairdo into a cute pixie style. The effect was complete.

Wait. This is wrong, Daniel thought. He shouldn’t be doing this. In a moment of clarity, Daniel picked up a washcloth and prepared to wipe the makeup off of his face. Before he started, though, a thought crossed his mind.

Daniel walked out of the bathroom and crossed to his bed, where a set of clothes lay.

The outfit that Gloria had worn yesterday was now laid out on the bed. Slowly, he lowered the jeans he was currently wearing onto the ground. His boxers, already loose on his frame, fell quickly afterwards. Daniel picked up a pair of panties that he had pealed off Gloria’s willing body the night before. He quickly slid them up, over his own legs and around his waist.

The fabric was soft on his skin, comforting.

Daniel picked up Gloria’s jean skirt and slipped it up, over his newly long and slender legs.

The hem came up to his upper thigh, showing off his legs. While Daniel had previously not been keen on wearing shorts due to what he felt were overly hairy legs, Daniel noted with a dry sense of humor that he wouldn’t have to worry about people calling him Wolfman again.

Daniel wiggled his toes, still painted crimson red.

Daniel unbuttoned the blouse that he had been wearing and sat it on the ground. His chest was sore, his skin sensitive from rubbing up against the shirt’s fabric all morning. As Daniel bent down to pick up a black shirt that Gloria had left on the bed, he noticed that his budding breasts seemed to jiggle. Daniel wondered how large his breasts would eventually get. Would he have to put up with people staring at his chest all the time?

Daniel picked up Gloria’s black halter-top, the front of it decorated with a glittery guitar. He slipped the halter over his head, feeling the fabric cling to his body. When he raised his arms, he noticed that his smooth belly showed. Daniel walked over to the bathroom again and looked in the mirror.

It was amazing.

With the makeup and clothing, Daniel felt that he looked completely and utterly like a girl – albeit, a girl with very small breasts. That would probably change soon, Daniel thought to himself with a heavy heart.

Daniel did not know how long he stared at himself in the mirror. Minutes passed, maybe even a half hour. Eventually, though, he was snapped out of his trance by the sound of his door opening.

“Gloria?” he softly called out. “Is that you?”

“Hey man, where are you? There’s this guy talking smack on Halo and I need your help to shut him up.”

It was Brian. There was no way that he could see Daniel like this. Daniel quickly ducked in the bathtub, pulling the shower curtain closed behind him.

“Dude what’s the deal? Where are you? I didn’t see you leave with Gloria. Don’t tell me you climbed out of the bedroom window again. Because that was so gay.”

Daniel adjusted himself in the shower, in the process accidentally knocking over a shampoo bottle. Brian heard the noise and walked into the bathroom.

“We’re not playing hide and seek are we? Come out, come out wherever you are.”

Daniel could see Brian’s silhouette, standing on the other side of the curtain. Daniel’s body tensed up. How was he going to explain what had happened.

“I’m about to rip open your curtain. You better not be naked behind there.”
Brian pulled the shower curtain open and saw Daniel, makeup, outfit and all.

“Oh, hello,” Brian said, blushing. “I didn’t know Daniel had anymore friends in here. I don’t know you, do I?”

Brian doesn’t recognize him, Daniel thought, simultaneously relived and frightened. Daniel had changed so much that his own roommate did not recognize him. If they were to see him, would his parents even recognize him?

As Daniel stood like a deer in headlights, he found that his appearance was not the only thing that had changed. Daniel began to notice a change in perspective.

As Brian stood over him, smiling, Daniel took in roommate as if for the first time. He had never noticed how handsome his roommate was before. Try as he might, Daniel could not take his eyes off of Brian’s well-built muscles except to look at his big brown eyes and the charming smile that showed off a perfect set of white teeth.

Brian brushed his long blond hair out of his eyes and offered Daniel a hand, helping him get out of the bathtub.

“I’m a friend of Daniel’s,” Daniel said.

“Sure. I assumed as much. Why are you’re hiding in his bathtub, though?”

“I’m waiting for Gloria and him to come back.”

“Okay… So why are you hiding in his bathtub?”

“You scared me. I didn’t know who you were.”

Brian smiled and Daniel felt his pulse quicken. Something was happening and Daniel did not like it.

“Well, please allow me to rectify that situation. My name is Brian Carter. And you are?”

“Danielle,” Daniel found himself saying.

Danielle? Why would he say that? Things were happening too fast. Daniel did not like the way his body seemed to be acting on autopilot.

“Are you sure we don’t know each other?” Brian asked. “I feel like we know each other from somewhere.”

As a look of confusion swept Brian’s face, Daniel realized what his roommate was talking about. Brian wasn’t just referring to the fact that Daniel’s new female form retained some resemblance to his former self. There was something deeper at play here.

Like the warped childhood recollections Daniel had previously uncovered, Daniel could see in the back of his mind the faintest glimpses of memories as they danced, like blurry visions of the past.

Through a hazy fog of uncertainty, Daniel thought he saw himself and Brian at a college football game. Unlike any of the football games he had actually gone to see with his roommate, though, Daniel was dressed in a low-cut skirt and a tight sweater. He and Brian cheered as the team scored a touchdown, celebrating their team’s victory with a kiss.

“I don’t think we’ve ever met,” Daniel lied.

“Do you live around here, Danielle?” Brian asked.

Daniel recognized Brian’s tone of voice. He had heard it many times before – whenever Brian tried to pick up girls at the bar.

“I’m a student,” Daniel said, continuing to get nervous.

“I’m a student too,” Brian said, grinning. “I study law, but what I’d really like to study is your anatomy.”

Daniel’s face turned scarlet from blushing. Although he had heard Brian use this line before and knew exactly where it was going, he found himself taking the bait.

“Does that line normally work on girls?” Daniel asked.

“No. In fact, most girls find it’s a terrible line. But I find that terrible pick-up lines are normally great icebreakers. Do you think our ice is properly broken yet?”

Danielle flashed Brian a huge smile. Her roommate was as predictable as ever. Even still, though, Danielle found she was drawn to Brian’s smile like a moth to an electric lamp.

Oh my god, Daniel thought. I’ve got to stop this. I’m flirting with my roommate. Daniel tried to walk past Brian and leave the cramped confines of the bathroom where he felt trapped but Brian blocked his way. As Danielle brushed against Brian’s chest, she felt her heart quicken even more.

Brian put a hand on Danielle’s bare shoulder. Daniel could feel his roommate’s pulse through his fingers. His heartbeat matched her own.

“Are you sure we don’t know each other?” Brian asked. “I feel like I’ve seen you before – maybe at a football game?”

The memories were starting to become a little clearer for Daniel. He could recall the flutter in his heart as he stood next to Brian in the stands. He could smell Brian’s musk, heavy and reassuring. He could taste Brian’s lips.

Daniel backed away from Brian.

It wasn’t just the football game. There were other memories that were becoming more and more clear for Danielle.

There was the time that the two of them went country-western dancing. Brian had held Danielle close to him as they swayed to the music. Daniel could recall feeling safe and secure in Brian’s big arms, sheltered from the rest of the world.

Danielle felt herself longing for that kind of shelter again.

There was the night the two of them had planned to go to a movie but spent the entire night making out instead. Daniel remembered being unable to sleep that night; her mind replaying the same intoxicating kisses over and over again as she touched herself.

Daniel remembered the first time he touched Brian, the thrill and arousal it brought the both of them. She remembered the first time Brian had touched her.

Standing in the bathroom, Daniel tensed up, the memories of that night’s pleasure replaying through her brain.

Danielle also remembered the time that Brian had introduced her to his parents. Daniel could still remember how nervous she was as she met Brian’s mother and father. There was nothing to be worried about, though, Danielle remembered. Brian’s mother had given Danielle a beautiful golden necklace. Brain said that the necklace, while stunning, paled in comparison to Danielle’s eyes.

How Danielle wished she could hear Brian speak those words again.

But, no. None of this happened to Daniel. It happened to Danielle. These memories were not real. Daniel’s feelings were not real.

Even as Daniel fought against the flood of false memories and foreign emotions that threatened to invade his soul, another memory had started to come into focus. This memory threatened to engulf Daniel, forever breaking her spirit.

Danielle could remember crying as he looked down at Brian and the sparkling ring that he held. Daniel remembered that she was unable to say anything but “Yes.” Yes. Yes. Yes. Over and over again until it hurt, she said yes.

This memory sent chills down Daniel’s spine. He was afraid of what it meant, what was happening. At the same time, Danielle was having a hard time remembering an instance when he had felt happier.

Danielle could feel her memories of Gloria and Daniel’s love for her ebbing like the tide, slowly washing away into oblivion.

On the one hand, he was loosing touch with his past – his reason for living. Gloria’s eyes stared at him, like an endless sea. Daniel wanted to rush into the sea and drown, awash in her beauty forever.

But then there was this other life, these equally pressing emotions that stirred in her new body. As much as Daniel loved Gloria, Danielle loved Brian.

Deep within his/her heart, two souls battled for control.

Daniel/Danielle found himself/herself starting to tear up, torn apart by conflicting emotions.

“Is something wrong?” Brian asked, showing genuine concern for this strange girl he met in the bathroom that was beginning to cry. “Was it something I said?”

“No, it’s fine,” Daniel said, choking back her tears. “You need to go, though. I need to be alone right now.”
”Will I see you again?”

“Probably,” Danielle said, sniffling. “Probably real soon.”

Daniel tried to push Brian out of the door of the bedroom as Danielle’s hand lingered on Brian’s chest. Before he shoved him completely through the door, though, Brian bent down and kissed Danielle on the mouth. As Brian parted, a surprised Daniel gently touched his lips.

“Till next time,” Brian said, taking a bow and leaving Danielle alone in her room.

Daniel watched Brian go and then crumpled to the floor. Brian was engaged to him. No, not to him. Brian was engaged to Danielle. Danielle could feel hollowness in her soul. It felt as if a chuck of her life was missing. Daniel tried to fill that hole with memories of Gloria, packing in as much love for her as he could muster but Danielle had tasted a love so deep, so reassuring that it had filled her with faith, powering her. With a love like Brian’s, there was nothing else that mattered. Daniel could feel himself getting drowsy. Something was happening; he was having more and more trouble staying conscious.

As Daniel sat, sobbing in the bathroom, he struggled to remember more and more of his life with Gloria, basking in the warmth these memories radiated, afraid of the growing strength that Danielle was showing.

Chapter 19

Brian heard Danielle shut the door behind him.

There was something about that girl that was special. He could not put his finger on it, but it buzzed in his ears, sending tingles down his spine. The girl was beautiful, that was obvious. There was something more, though. Something deeper. Looking into this girl’s face, seeing a glimpse of something strange and wonderful, Brian felt that he was destined to be with this girl – to be her best friend and lover.

Brian smiled and did a small jig.

“What are you so happy about?”

Gloria was standing by the front door, holding a couple of bags from McDonalds.

“I just met the most beautiful girl in the world,” Brian said, grinning ear to ear.

“Where at?” Gloria asked, nervously.

“In the spare bedroom. She said she was waiting for you.”

What spare bedroom, Gloria wondered. Was Brian talking about Daniel’s room? Was reality already beginning to shift?

“Did this mystery girl say who she was?”

“Her name is Danielle,” Brian said, already lost in his dreams.

Gloria dropped the food bags and ran into the room. She heard a soft crying coming from the bathroom and saw Daniel sitting in the corner of the bathroom sobbing quietly.

Gloria could not believe her eyes. Daniel was dressed in the outfit that Gloria had worn the day before and his face was covered with makeup. Even though mascara ran down her cheeks and her eyes were red and puffy from crying, Daniel looked beautiful and that scared Gloria more then anything ever had.

Gloria sat down on the floor next to Daniel.

“Daniel?” she asked.

The girl continued to cry.

“Danielle?”

“Don’t call me that,” Daniel said. “Please, don’t call me that.”

“Oh thank god,” Gloria said. “You’re still you. I thought you had forgotten.”

“I want to forget,” Daniel said through tears. “I want to forget everything.”
“What are you talking about?”

“Oh Gloria, I’m glad you’re here. I don’t know what to do. I remembered Brian. I remembered being in love with him. Memories are starting to creep into my brain and take root. Memories of Brian. Memories of the two of us together.”

“Don’t worry. You’ll forget those memories when the curse is over.”

“I don’t want to forget them. I want to forget everything else.”
Gloria’s heart shattered into tiny pieces.

“When I was with Brian, I felt safe. I felt loved. I could feel his warmth as it entered my body and it felt like I could be sustained on that warmth forever. Everything faded away – my worries, my fears, my anxieties. Life with Brian was bright and shiny and I think it was the closest I’ll ever get to paradise.”

Gloria looked into the face of this girl and realized that she could no longer see Daniel staring back at her. She did not recognize this girl.
“What about us?” Gloria pleaded. “Have you forgotten about the way you feel about me?”
“Won’t you give me this chance at love, Gloria? Won’t you let me feel that warmth?”

“No, Daniel. I’m sorry but I’m not going to let you go. I’m not going to let you forget about me that easy. I love you too much.”
Gloria could see the pain in Daniel’s eyes but she pushed harder.

“You say that Brian fills you with warmth? Well, you’re my warmth and I don’t think I could bear to loose that. So fuck Brian. Fuck him because I called dibs on you.”

Gloria could see something shift in the girl’s face – something slight yet powerful.

“Gloria, I’m starting to loose control,” the girl said. “The other me … the new me, she’s starting to take over.”

“You’ve got to fight this Daniel. You’re strong. And together we’re stronger. We can take on this curse. Don’t give up on me.”

“I don’t want to Gloria,” the girl said, sobbing harder then ever. “I love you so goddamn much. Don’t let me go. Don’t let me go.”

Gloria grabbed Daniel’s face and pulled it close to her own.

“Look at me,” she said. “You are my boyfriend, not Brian’s.”

Gloria kissed Daniel. As they locked lips, the kiss seemed to go on forever. Gloria could taste the lipstick on Daniel’s mouth but more importantly, she could feel the man she loved returning. When the two of them finally separated, Gloria looked at Daniel. Even through the makeup and the outfit, she instantly recognized the man she loved staring back at her from his own eyes.

Daniel was back and Gloria was never going to give him up.

“What are we going to do?” Daniel asked, wiping tears from his eyes. “I’m out of ideas.”

“That’s why you’ve go me, babe,” Gloria said, smiling. “It’s going to be okay. There’s a cure.”

“What are you talking about?”

“While I was buying the food, I was able to reach Nicole on the phone.”

“Who?”

“Uh … Dr. Suspendo. After you talked to her last night, Nicole had done some research on her own. She said that if you are indeed only transforming in your sleep, then the curse isn’t as strong as she thought it was. If you wait long enough, the curse with wither up and die on its own. All you need to do is stay awake for the next twenty-four hours. After that you’ll begin to change back and reality will go back to normal.”

“That’s all? If I stay awake for the rest of the day everything will go back to the way it was?”

“You’ll be the same old you again.”

“Thank God,” Daniel said, crying again – this time tears of joy. “For a minute there, I thought I was going to have to date Brian.”

“He’d have to go through me,” Gloria said through a smile.

She hugged Daniel tightly, not ever wanting to let go.

Chapter 20

Outside Danielle’s door, Brian listened.

Could this girl who had taken his heart by storm really be his roommate? It seemed impossible but Brian heard what he had heard.

He did not understand what curses or magicians had to do with anything, but he knew that he had met the girl he was meant to spend the rest of his life with.

As Brian listened to the muffled voices of Gloria and Danielle, he grew angry. What right did Gloria have deciding whom Daniel could and could not become.

She claimed to love Daniel, but was her love as strong as Brian’s love for Danielle? What gave Gloria’s love credence over Brian’s? If reality was changing, who was Gloria to stop it?

Brian could not access any of the memories that Danielle had spoken of; the memories of the two of them together. But she had spoken of them as if they happened. When reality shifted, Brian guessed, he would have those memories too. Danielle loved Brian and Brian loved Danielle. They were meant to be together, it was fate. What right did Gloria have to stop fate? If Gloria was in his position, she would feel the same way Brian did.

Brian would not let anybody or anything stand in the way of his love. If he was to be joined with the girl he loved, Brian knew what he must do. He had twenty-four hours to act and time was running out.

Chapter 21

The first hour was easy.

At Gloria’s insistence, Daniel had changed out of the outfit he was wearing. Gloria felt it was important to keep Daniel’s mind off of his predicament and she felt that embracing his growing femininity was not the best way to fight the curse.

Gloria was also slightly disturbed by the sight of the man she loved dressed in her dirty laundry.

As Daniel took a cold shower, Gloria ventured out of the room to retrieve the food she had bought.

Gathering their lunch off of the floor, Gloria looked around for Brian. His continued presence in the apartment made Gloria nervous. As long as Brian was around, there was fuel for Danielle’s strength to grow.

Peering outside the window, though, Gloria saw that Brian’s pickup truck was gone. She breathed a sigh of relief as she picked up a bag from Wal-Mart that lay by the door.

While buying food, Gloria had stopped at Wal-Mart and bought a pair of boy’s pajamas for Daniel to wear. Now, as Daniel toweled off, Gloria opened the package and handed the clothing to him. Pictures of Superman and Batman danced over the material. The pajamas’ soft fabric would not do much to distract from Daniel’s growing curves but it was a major improvement over what he had previously been wearing.

Carefully, Gloria took a washcloth and wiped off the remaining streaks of the makeup that clung to Daniel’s face. Even dressed in superhero pajamas and removed of makeup, Daniel still looked like a young woman. There was nothing Gloria could do to change that. Even as she found her eyes drawn to Daniel’s full lips, Gloria was determined to take comfort in the small victories she could achieve in the war against Danielle.

For the rest of the afternoon, Gloria and Daniel confined themselves to Daniel’s room, playing video games and watching movies. Gloria found herself constantly glancing at Daniel, to check if he was awake.

During one of Gloria’s peaks, she glimpsed Daniel staring at a picture on his bookshelf. In the picture, Daniel had one arm around Gloria, the other around Brian. Gloria saw a look of sadness and longing in Daniel’s eyes and began to grow worried.

“You and Danielle were roommates, you know,” Daniel said. “During your freshman year.”

“Oh,” Gloria said tersely, not wanting to discuss Danielle’s memories.

“Yes. You were so kind to me. I was far from home, but you made me forget all my anxieties. I can remember how, in our first week in the dorm, you and I stayed up all night and watched Brad Pitt movies. I told you about how I had a crush on Brad from ‘Legends of the Fall’ and you told me about how you preferred him from ‘Fight Club.’”

“I really don’t think we should be talking about this right now,” Gloria said.

“Another night, before the freshmen dance, you helped me get ready for my first date with Brian.”

“OK, now I really know we shouldn’t be talking about this right now.”

Gloria did not like how Daniel was shifting pronoun usage when describing Danielle’s memories.

“You did my hair and my makeup. I looked amazing. That night, Brian said I was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Gloria asked.

Daniel turned to Gloria and smiled.

“I’ve decided that after all of this is over and I’m back to my normal self, I want you to always be a part of my life,” Daniel said. “You have always been there for me, in both of my lives, offering me support when I needed it. I want to do the same for you. I want to always be there for you – in the good times and the bad. Wherever you wanted to go, I’d follow. I’d even go to another magic show for you.”

It was Gloria’s turn to smile.

“This experience has made me hate magic more then I ever thought possible but I’d sit though a hundred card tricks if it meant being close to you. I love you Gloria. I will always love you.”

“I love you too.”

And so, as the night stretched on and the end of the curse was in sight, the two of them settled into the bed to watch television, their minds only on their future together.

Chapter 22

Gloria glanced at the clock on the wall. It was four in the morning – only a handful of hours to go before the nightmare was over. Daniel was on the computer, watching videos on YouTube. Gloria herself was trying to read a Stephen King novel that she had found under Daniel’s bed but found herself having trouble concentrating.

“Are you getting tired?” Gloria asked.

“A little,” Daniel replied. “But I’m fine. We’re not to far from the finish line, are we?”

Gloria gave Daniel a small smile.

“Well, I’m starting to get a little tired,” she said. “I think I’m going to go make a cup of coffee. You want anything?”

“I’ll take a cup.”

“Are you going to be alright by yourself?”

“I’ll be fine. If I start to get tired, I’ll take another cold shower,” Daniel said with a smile.

Gloria got up from the bed and stretched. She was far more exhausted then she had let on to Daniel. Without two or three cups of coffee, she felt liable to collapse where she stood.

Leaving Daniel at the computer, Gloria slipped out of the room, closing the door behind her.

As she walked into the apartment’s common area, darkness surrounded her. Tall and wicked shadows danced on the ceiling. Gloria fumbled against the wall, looking for the light switch that would drive the darkness away.

As she flipped on the lights, though, she was startled to see Brian sitting alone at the kitchen table.

“What are you doing sitting in the dark like that?” she asked. “You almost gave me a heart attack.”

“I couldn’t sleep,” Brian said with a dry voice. “You neither, huh? No rest for the wicked.”

Gloria ignored Brian and walked into the kitchen.

“Daniel and I are watching a Godzilla marathon. I’m just here on a coffee run.”

“There’s some in the pot,” Brian said, pointing to the kitchen counter.

“You’re a lifesaver,” Gloria said, smiling.

She poured two cups, taking a big sip of coffee from the first.

“Not that I’m complaining about the pre-made joe, but why make coffee if you’re having trouble sleeping,” Gloria asked.

“So it’s just you and Daniel, huh?” Brian asked, ignoring Gloria’s question.

“Yeah,” Gloria said, taking another sip of coffee. “Just the two of us.”

“Did Danielle leave?”

Gloria frowned as she took another sip of her coffee.

She was having trouble reading Brian’s expression.

“Yep,” she said. “She took off not long after I got back. She said to tell you goodbye, though.”

“Why are you trying to take her away from me, Gloria? What gives you the right? Why do you get to decide who stays and who goes?”

“What are you talking about,” Gloria said, suddenly nervous.

She set her coffee cup down and began to walk towards Daniel’s room. Brian stood up and blocked her way.

“Drop the act, Gloria,” Brian said. “I heard you and Danielle talking. I don’t understand everything that’s going on but I think I got the gist of the situation. Daniel is becoming Danielle. He’s becoming the girl I love. I’m starting to remember her now … just snippets of the past but I’m predicting more on the way soon.”

“But, Brian”

“Shhh… In order for Danielle and me to be together, Daniel has to stop being Daniel. I’m just making sure what’s supposed to happens happens. You have no right to decide what reality is the right reality.”

Something was wrong. As Gloria took a step back from Brian, she realized she could not feel her feet. Worse, she began to notice that her vision was becoming fuzzy.

“But Daniel’s your roommate!” she said, her voice a whisper.

“And Danielle is my fiancée. I’m just doing what you are — trying to save the person I love. I’m just doing a better job of it.”
Gloria felt her legs begin to buckle. The darkness was starting to creep back into the room. As she stumbled forward, Brian caught her.

“The coffee…”

“Just a little sedative,” he said. “You’ll be fine. Tell me Gloria, you’d fight hard to keep Daniel, right?”

“Yes,” Gloria mentioned to sputter out before collapsing into unconsciousness.

“Well I fought harder.”

Brian scooped Gloria up in his arms and carried her over to the living room couch. As he laid her down on the couch, he placed a blanket over her, tucking her in.

“I’m sorry Gloria, I really am. You and Daniel were such a good couple. But Danielle and I were meant for each other too. What was I supposed to do? Don’t worry, in the morning all of this will be over.”

Chapter 23

Gloria woke from the couch with a start.

Sunlight was drifting in from the apartment’s window. As Gloria rubbed her forehead, she began to remember the events that led to her collapse.

Oh no, she thought. What had Brian done?

As Gloria sat on the couch, she began to notice that the apartment had changed around her.

While Daniel and Brian’s furniture had previously been a hodgepodge of styles and designs, the result of an afternoon spent dumpster diving, the apartment now seemed to have a matching decor. Rugs and lamps gave the room a personality that had previously been lacking.

On a normal day, Gloria would have been overjoyed to see Daniel and Brian actually taking an interest in the appearance of their home. Today, though, the connotations brought on by this overnight change only frightened Gloria.

Even worse were the pictures.

Everywhere Gloria looked, there were pictures. Gloria picked up a framed picture that sat on a nearby table.

In it, Gloria saw herself, Brian and a young woman. Gloria recognized the woman’s face right away. In the picture, though, Danielle had long, flowing hair and was dressed in a cute college sweatshirt that clung tightly to her ample chest. Her arm was wrapped tightly around Brian’s waist, her eyes staring intently into her boyfriend’s. Gloria could see a look of devotion in both of their faces. They looked like such a cute couple and it made Gloria sick to her stomach.

She threw the picture onto the ground and picked up another.

In this picture, Danielle was at a costume party. She was dressed as a nurse, her crisp white outfit showing off both her slender legs and ample cleavage.

In another photo, the young woman was with her family. Gloria couldn’t help but notice how much Danielle resembled her mother and sister. Gloria’s heart began to beat wildly.

With trembling hands, she picked up one more picture.

In the photo, the girl was smiling, tears streaming down her face, as she flashed the camera an engagement ring.

Gloria couldn’t take it anymore.

She threw herself on the couch and began to cry. She had lost everything. Daniel was gone forever.

As she cried on the couch, she heard the front doorknob turn. She picked up her head and, through tear-stained, puffy eyes, looked at the front door as it opened.

Even after looking at the pictures, Gloria was still not prepared for what she saw.

Danielle was beautiful, glowing. She was dressed in a peach-colored sundress and flat sandals. Her long wavy brown hair flowed down over her shoulders. Perfect white teeth shined through her smile.

Gloria was hard pressed to spot even an iota of Daniel in this woman’s gorgeous face.

This girl, this stranger, ran over and hugged Gloria, giggling uncontrollably.

Gloria noticed that Danielle even smelled different.

“I’m glad to see that Sleepy Head is finally awake!” the girl said, between bouts of laughter.

“Daniel?”

The girl tilted her head and gave Gloria a funny look.

“You missed your fitting appointment, silly, but don’t worry,” Danielle said. “I rescheduled it for this afternoon.”
“Fitting?”

“For your bridesmaid dress.”

Exasperation was starting to show through Danielle’s voice.

“Gloria, are you okay? You’re eyes are all puffy. Have you been crying?”

“I guess I’m kind of out of it this morning.”

“Don’t worry; I have some tea that will clear up all of that bad mojo you’re feeling.”

Danielle began to giggle again.

“I still can’t believe you’re back in town. This weekend is going to be so amazing!”

Back in town? Did she not live in the city anymore? Where had she gone, Gloria wondered.

“Hey, would you mind helping me and Brian unload some groceries from the truck?”

Gloria frowned. She couldn’t wait to see Brian. She was going to punch him right in his coffee-drugging testicles.

“Sure,” she said.

Gloria slipped on her shoes and walked outside behind Danielle. She saw Brian, standing behind the truck. His usual shoulder-length blonde hair had been cut short to his head, almost like Daniel had used to wear it. He was dressed in a polo shirt and khaki pants.

Even though Danielle obviously had a hand in changing Brian’s wardrobe and appearance, he seemed happier then ever.

Gloria watched as Brian bent over to gather some cans that had fallen on the floor. Danielle snuck up behind him and slipped her hand in his back pocket, grabbing his ass in the process. Brian turned and kissed Danielle on the lips.

Gloria was shattered. They looked so happy together.

As Danielle carried a bag of groceries into the apartment, Gloria walked over to Brian.

“How could you?” she asked through clenched teeth.

“Whoa now. What did I do this time?” Brian said, laughing. “I know I didn’t forget to leave the toilet seat up again!”

“How could you have taken him from me?”

As Brian’s laughter died down, a look of confusion swept his face.

“I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about,” he said.

And Gloria could tell that Brian really didn’t know what she was talking about.

Reality had shifted and Brian didn’t even remember betraying Daniel. Gloria began to cry.

Brian, a look of genuine concern showing on his face, put a hand on Gloria’s shoulder.

“What’s wrong, Gloria?”

Gloria violently removed Brian’s hand from her shoulder, shuddering.

“Don’t you touch me,” she said. “Don’t ever touch me again.”
Even if Brian did not remember what he had done, Gloria still did. She would never be able to forgive him.

“What’s going on out here?”

Danielle was standing at the front of the pick-up truck, staring at Gloria and Brian, a look of worry on her face.

“Hey… I’m not really feeling well,” Gloria managed to say, telling the truth. “Would you guys be fine if I ran inside and used the bathroom real quick?”
“Sure,” Danielle said, smiling. “But make it real quick. We were going to do some baking this morning.”

Gloria managed to give the girl who used to be Daniel a feeble smile and snuck back inside the apartment.

Chapter 24

As Gloria stood inside the room where she had twice made love with the man who stole her heart, that same heart sunk deep into her chest. The room was now a guest bedroom. More pictures of Danielle and Brian decorated the walls.

Gloria could not bear to look at any more pictures.

She went into the bathroom, sat down on the toilet and began to cry.

“Why?” Gloria asked out loud. “Why would this happen to you Daniel? How could anybody do this to you?”

Gloria’s voice could barely be understood beneath her deep, gasping sobs.

“I wish you were yourself. I wish you were mine again.”

As Gloria cried, the lights in the bathroom began to flicker.

At first Gloria did not notice the electrical disturbance, caught up in her crying. But as the bathroom was plunged into darkness, Gloria slowly looked up at the mirror. Something in the glass’s reflection caught her eye. Slowly, a strange bluish light was beginning to emit from the mirror, eventually giving way to something that, for all intents and purposes, looked like a face.

Even though this face had eyes, ears, a nose and a mouth, it didn’t look like any face Gloria had ever seen. It was a constantly shifting mess of light and shadows, seeming to be everything and nothing at once.

“How dare you,” the face said.

With every word, its mouth opened up to a dark and deep oblivion.

“How dare you,” it said again. “You meddle with reality as if it was your personal dollhouse.”

Gloria was growing very, very scared.

“Who are you?” she whispered.

“Who am I? Who are you? You are but a child yet you waddle in that which you do not understand. You deal out curses as if it was your birthright.”

“Curses?” Gloria moaned. “Me? I did this?”

“You know not of the powers you possess. How completely and utterly predictable.”

The face slowly dissolved in the mirror. In its place, Gloria could make out an all too familiar scene.

Reflected in the mirror, Gloria could see herself standing in a darkened parking lot facing Daniel.

At first her heart leapt at the chance to see her love as he used to be but as she recognized the anger that spread across her mirror-self’s face, her heart began to once-again sink.

“You know what, Daniel?” the mirror version of her asked. “You’re right. I could have brought it up. But you know what else? Maybe I shouldn’t have to. Maybe you should be able to tell that I’m in love with you without me shouting it from the mountaintops.”

Gloria saw shock spread across Daniel’s face. The shock was followed shortly by pain.

“Sometimes I wish you were a girl. Maybe if that magician had changed you tonight, you would actually be able to tell what I’m feeling for once. We could share our emotions with each other and I wouldn’t have to wear a giant billboard advertising what I’m thinking every time I wanted to have a meaningful conversation with you. I really do wish you were my girlfriend because you obviously have no interest in ever being my boyfriend.”

The scene faded away, replaced once again by the shifting face.

“I didn’t mean – I mean, it wasn’t what I was trying – ”

“You didn’t realize that anybody was listening?” the voice asked. “We are always listening. Maybe it was that you didn’t realize that you had the power?”

“Yes! It was an accident. I didn’t mean it. I didn’t want to curse Daniel. I was just upset. Don’t you understand that?”

“I do understand. You did not intend to invoke magic. But invoked it was. And now you, like so many before you, must live with the consequences.”

“But if I have the power to curse, don’t I have the power to un-curse?”

“Have you ever thought that maybe she is happier this way?”
“Daniel’s not a she! And he would be happier with me, I know it!”

“Another would disagree with you.”

“You’re talking about Brian, right? Well, Brian does not deserve Danielle. He did not earn her. Not really. I did, though. Daniel and I are supposed to be together.”

“If you say so,” the face said, no emotion showing through its voice. “I could take this pain from you. I’ve done this in the past to others. I could take away your memory. You would leave this room unable to remember the way reality used to be. This could be my gift to you.”

“Never. I don’t want to ever forget Daniel. I don’t accept that. I want you to turn Daniel back to normal?”

“Normal has changed. Normal is now.”

“Well, I want things back the way they used to be.”
“But what about the consequences?”

“Fuck the consequences!”
With Gloria’s outburst, the face stood still. As it paused it’s shifting, Gloria was able to catch sight of its true nature for a brief moment. In this moment, Gloria saw exactly whom she was dealing with and instantly regretted being so flippant in her tone.

“I will do what you say,” the face said. “I will remove the curse. But there are always consequences. Never forget that. You cannot play with magic of this nature without altering certain things irrevocably.”

“Will Daniel be a man again?”
“Yes.”
“Then that’s all I care about.”

The face began to fade from sight. Before it was gone, though, it offered one last warning.

“Remember, there are always consequences. And sometimes the smallest change can usher in bigger consequences then you could have ever feared. If you ever attempt to play with magic of this nature again, it will be you who pays the price.”

With that, the face disappeared from the mirror and the bathroom lights turned back on.

Chapter 25

Gloria stood, staring at herself in the mirror, unsure of what to do. She picked up a towel and wiped her face, cleaning the wet streaks from her cheeks.

She took a moment to steady herself as she slowly opened the bathroom door and looked at Daniel’s bedroom.

It was back to normal – down to the dirty clothes on the floor and the waste basket that overflowed with trash.

Gloria could have kissed each individual piece of trash.

Gloria did a little jig as she leapt out of the bathroom. Everything was going to be all right.

She ran out of the bedroom and into the kitchen.

Daniel was putting some canned food into the cabinet, his back to Gloria. She snuck up behind him and planted a kiss on his neck, hugging him tightly.

As Daniel turned to look his unseen kisser, Gloria was infinitely pleased to see that there was nothing about him that seemed in the least bit feminine.

“Hey, where’d you go? I was worried about you.”

“I’m fine,” she said. “I was feeling sick but now I’m fine.”

“I’m glad to hear that. We have a big day in front of us, birthday girl.”

Daniel bent down and kissed Gloria on the forehead.

Gloria could have melted.

Daniel handed Gloria a roll of paper towels to put in the cabinet. As Gloria bent down to open the door, she thought she heard Daniel say something.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t hear what you said.”

“I asked if Brianna could come with us tonight,” Daniel said. “Her boyfriend broke up with her last week and she’s been moping around the apartment all day.”

Gloria heard the sound of footsteps coming from the apartment’s second floor. Looking at the stairwell, Gloria saw a tall, athletic girl descending down the steps.

Long, shapely legs flowed from khaki shorts that barely covered her behind. A large, perky set of breast bounced beneath a tight, short cut polo shirt.

Gloria’s mouth fell slightly as she stared at the beautiful blond-haired girl who walked up to her and Daniel.

The girl gave Gloria a small, insincere smile before turning to Daniel and swatting him softly on the behind.

“I didn’t know you were going to the grocery store,” the girl purred. “I could have come.”

Daniel frowned at the girl and whispered something into her ear.

Gloria was barely able to make out what he said.

“What did I tell you about doing that, Brianna,” he hissed. “We talked about how it upsets Gloria when you touch me like that.”

“She knows we’re just friends,” the girl said, not bothering to silence her own voice as she smiled at Gloria, a sneer slipping through her attempt at false friendliness.

Brianna laughed as she took the cans that Daniel had been holding.

Chapter 26

Brianna stared at Gloria, hate on her mind.

Since the day she met Daniel at their freshmen orientation, Brianna had harbored a crush on him. In the years since, the two of them had grown close, become best friends. Together, they had helped each other with classes, relationships and disasters of all shapes and sizes.

Once, during a particularly stressful night of test cramming, they had even become something more then friends – if only for a moment of brief, fleeting passion.

The night they made love, Brianna’s crush on Daniel had turned into full-fledged, head-over-heels worship.

And then Daniel had met somebody else.

Quickly, he had forgotten all about his and Brianna’s night together, reestablishing the two of them purely as friends.

All of his attention and love was turned to this new girl, Gloria.

Brianna was not about to let go of Daniel without a fight. Now that she had managed to convince Daniel to let her move into an extra room in his apartment, Brianna knew that she had been given a second chance to win his heart.

To win him back, she was going to have to earn it. Nothing was going to get in her way – especially Gloria.

Soon all would be right with the world. Things would be back to normal.

Sometimes, Brianna couldn’t help but wish…

Chapter 27

Gloria knew, as she watched the girl that used to be Brian stand on her tip-toes and put a box of cereal in the pantry that things weren’t completely back to normal.

Gloria was having trouble recalling specific memories, while other, different memories were slowly shifting into focus. She knew that in this reality, she hadn’t known Daniel since freshmen year. While they had spent fewer years in each other’s company, the years they had spent together were beyond wonderful.

Gloria could tell from the glances that Brianna was giving Daniel that she had a past with him. She could also tell, from the awkwardness between the two, that Brianna sought more from Daniel then simple friendship.

Gloria knew this but did not care.

She had Daniel back in her life. What was a little new competition compared to the alternative? She had fought for Daniel before, faced down something ancient and evil, all for a second chance at love. She would fight for him again if she had to. Daniel was back and all was right with the world.

“Are you excited about going to your birthday magic show,” Daniel asked through gritted teeth.

“You know what?” Gloria said. “We don’t have to go. Why don’t we go birthday bowling?”

“Really? I know how much you were looking forward to watching Dr. Suspendo’s act.”

“I think I’ve had enough of magic for a while,” Gloria replied, stealing a glance at the girl who was longingly staring at Daniel.

“That’s the best thing that I’ve heard all day,” Daniel said, grinning widely. “You know how much I hate magic.”

The end

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