The shivering came.
There had to be a different explanation. I stepped towards the front of the store and began furiously rubbing at the spot. But I knew there was no way I could've accidentally gotten some paint on there. It almost looked like someone had pasted a small patch of fleshy, glove material on me. For now, it was only the back of my hand but I had the nagging apprehension it would soon spread.
I made my way out of the store and considered washing in the restroom. I knew it wouldn't do anything. I would've felt something if it were a stain or an allergic reaction. Actually, I didn't feel the light hairs I usually had on the back of my hand. I tried to tickle for them and I couldn't find anything inside the affected area.
Not a reason to panic. Dad definitely lost a lot of body hair. My concern was becoming like that pervy former-guy in class. I wasn't anything like them though. Not that some random phenomena would care. Leaving my hand under the faucet only made it slightly-redder. Examining it with a close eye, I was sure it had gotten bigger. I dialed Candace's number. It took her a moment to pick up.
"Not a good time, bro…"
I whispered, "My hand is changing color."
She was quiet for a moment before saying something I couldn't hear, then she growled into the phone, "You gotta be joking. It's not funny."
I asked her where she was and offered to present my hand. Not that I wanted to show evidence that I was being converted. And I especially didn't want to make the next phone call to mom and dad.
I guessed Candace went to the store with that particular boy and she didn't want me to know what she was doing. I didn't want to think about that either but she sighed and begrudgingly told me where to meet up.
When I arrived, I noticed that the clothing store they were at only had female clerks. Allison sat on a bench with her head down. Bad call on my part. I swallowed my thought and walked over. Candace instructed me to hold my hand up to the light. She eyeballed it and then went through a series of odd and very colorful expressions. First, the narrow-eyed, accented skeptical animation. Then, her eyes widened to their fullest and her mouth line spread. Then, came the overly-obvious smirk.
She looked at me and announced, "That's conversion." It struck hard, like an arrow in the chest, to hear someone else say it aloud.
Then she added what I hoped she wouldn't, "That hand looks smaller…and girlier than your other hand."
Dabbing at her eyes, Allison turned to look at me. It wasn't long before she was inspecting too, with her hands prodding me. It gave me a preview of coming attractions. Well, not really. The parts outside the converted section, the parts under her influence, looked like my normal hand, only animated. The spreading patch, however, as Candace reiterated, looked….less like my normal hand.
Leaning close, Candace whispered, "It's girlier than dad's to be sure. Kenny…you might be gender-converting too." I couldn't hide a bright, overwhelming blush. Allison held her hand to her lightly-colored cheek and whispered to Candace.
I answered swiftly, "You don't know that." I tried not to say it very loud but it felt like a scream. I kept glancing at the spot. I was sure it was bigger now and not because of Allison, that influence was gone.
Candace looked at me and asked, "So you're saying that's a…boy's hand?" She held hers up for comparison. Enough of the shape had changed that I could tell immediately that the form was pretty close to hers. But then girls can have manly hands and boys can have small, soft hands!
Still, every rationalization felt futile. I wobbled and muttered, "I guess I should call mom and dad." This was one thing even Candace couldn't argue about. I apologized to Allison but she sniffled and bowed her head, saying, "It's okay. I know how stressful this can be. And with…something else maybe on top of it…you do what you need to do."
I expected Candace to reiterate a gibe she'd tossed me once, back when there was a rash of gender-conversions and she announced, "I'll help you buy your first bra, big sis."
No such comments this time. I let her and Allison get back to shopping around as I made my call.
I didn't want the other end to pick up. It was dad. I was tempted to ask for mom but I just blurted out, "Dad, I'm converting." Same quiet as with Candace, this one to fill a thousand heartbeats. More whispers I couldn't hear on the other end before he answered, "Do you need us to pick you up?"
I could feel behind his words that he was also asking if I could drive, if I was still human, if I looked anything like I did just a short time ago. I told him, "It's just on my hand right now but it's…changing quite a bit." That was too vague.
Looking at it again, the conversion was easily winning the war against the rest of the flesh on the back of my hand. It looked like one of those invading army pictures from conflicts long past, spreading constantly.
I fielded two more careful questions before I finally admitted, "Dad…Candace said it looks like a…girly hand."
Dad sighed into the phone and I thought I heard something from mom too in the background after dad whispered a bit. He told me, "Alright. Now it's up to you. If you want, come home as soon as you like, but only if you feel well enough to drive. I can find someone to pick up your sister and her friend, unless they want to head back with you."
So there sat the central problem. Did I want to go home and wait this out or did I want to bide my time while my sister pondered if I was about to sprout cartoon breasts in front of her and Allison? I didn't like either of those options. I just wanted to relax and enjoy a regular Sunday. I took a few deep breaths and told dad, "I'll call back in a bit."
Clutching my phone, I walked around a ring of clothes and glanced down at my hand. It was to my fingers. The first of the lines were showing up. Lines more like Candace's than mom's. No way of denying what it was anymore. I was converting. Thinking furiously, I tried to estimate how long I had. Most people didn't notice a conversion until they were at least past the hand. Denial, typically. I had to have started soon after we arrived at the mall or just before.
I knew it was useless to try to think of something I may have done. No scientific causation between actions and conversion. Still, the fear in me wanted to make sense of it. Blame something, try to rationalize why it was happening now and not before or years from now. Especially because my hand looked so soft and small. And I couldn't even cover it up for long. If I put a glove on my hand then it would just eventually animate and become a more obvious sign of what was happening to me.
I paced and glanced back towards Candace and Allison. They were talking. I was sure Allison had been crying. I should've felt like crying too. My life as I knew it was over. At the very least, I would be gawked at by random strangers, a morbid curiosity. At the very worst, I didn't want to contemplate what might happen.
I had a shiver and a sick feeling, so I took a breath. Darn it. The nothing-really-happening was the worst. Breaking down in tears would at least be something but I'd never been a crier, not even when I was a little kid and I inevitably hurt myself all the time. Screaming was possible but the attention would make it worse, along with being tossed out of the store. All the while, the smoldering, painless burn of my hand continued.
But the point remained, I had to at least choose to do something. Hurry home and crawl into bed while my mom rubbed the covers and told me it would be alright? I felt a backlash of pride.
Wander around and maybe have my clothes shift before falling off as I exposed...everything to the entire mall? Not a good idea.
All that remained for me was to stick around with my sister and her friend and see how the change progressed. Saying it myself reiterated that it was a stupid idea but going home and sulking sure wouldn't help.
A quick call back home was met by a long silence as dad inquired, "You want to stay there with your sister? Will you be alright?"
"I'll do my best and call back if there are any new problems."
When I relayed my decision to Candace, she gave me a long, skeptical look. I stuck out my tongue at her. She shrugged and said, "Alright…"
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Bio: I'm MajorKerina and I love to collaborate creatively with a group of friends to make tales where people have their genders, identities, and very realities questioned, contorted, and turned upside-down. I like slice-of-life with a spicing of the supernatural, strange, or surreal. Reality with a scent of the impossible. You can find me on DeviantArt, Twitter, ScribbleHub, and other places.