For me, well, I wasn't freaking out. I did feel a little anxious but it was more like lightly batting at the air. If I had to describe it, it felt at that moment like I'd left something I'd wanted to bring with me at home by accident. There was nothing I could do about it at the moment and I felt irked that it happened but also a bit helpless to make something happen to fix it. And I felt darn sweaty with those socks stuffed in my shoes.
Candace lingered and asked me the big question, "You alright, bro?"
Allison echoed, "You don't feel sick, do you?"
Physically, I felt fine. I didn't like that I had to be overly-conscious of my hair getting in my face or snagging on something. I could've bought something to contain my hair but I honestly didn't want to spend more money on things I didn't even know if I'd need depending on how the rest of the change went. Mostly, I felt like going home and at the same time I knew it wouldn't be any better there. What I wanted was a time machine capable of moving events a few more hours so I wouldn't have to plod through the uncertainty. I muttered as much to Candace, who nodded.
I rechecked my chest just to be sure nothing had popped up without my knowing in the last few minutes. The same as before. Allison leaned close. Some customers lingered and watched us. Probably because we were blocking the more popular magazines rather than the fact I looked like a half-girly, bright-pink-wigged weirdo between two anime girls.
We regrouped just outside the bookstore on a quiet bench without many shoppers passing by. Allison went back to buy one of the magazines she had her eye on and Candace went back to browse a bit in turn. When Candace was gone, Allison tried to make absolutely certain I was alright. Wanting to change the subject from me, I carefully asked how her conversion went and whether she felt alright during it. She was quiet long enough for me to raise what would soon be a pen-strike eyebrow.
"Not at first. I was so very calm that my parents freaked out with all sorts of accusations and yelling. So, I tried to be sad. I pretended to be scared so they wouldn't be worried. It wasn't till it was all done and they'd taken me to useless doctors who recommended all sorts of vague vitamins that I actually started to feel worried. About like…what I would do every day for the rest of my life. How my family would see me. How my friends would see me. Then, I called Candace and really…you have an awesome sister because she helped a lot." She smiled faintly and squeezed her book bag till it became drawn in her influence.
I'd heard about the vitamin thing before. Some random tale that a case of conversion had actually been reversed due to diet. Like so many pseudo-scientific things before, it was thoroughly-disproved but still readily-believed as an item of last resort. An effort to say that something had been done. A placebo for stressed relatives.
I smiled cryptically at Candace when she returned. She gave me a suspicious look then a curious look before asking, "What now?"
I had a couple of ideas in mind. First, begrudgingly, I knew what I was wearing already looked ridiculous and might not be able to stay on for long. I had a rough plan though. Right next door to what remained of the mall gaming arcade was one of the stores on Candace's list of places she liked to go. The games would hopefully be enough of a time sink. Allison noted the dance games she'd seen there once. Honestly, those ancient things were just about the only interesting machines they had left.
It wasn't a long walk. I didn't get as many second looks this time. It was mostly the kids who watched me. Allison offered to play a couple games with me before she went to look at clothes but Candace and Allison wound up playing against each other because I didn't feel comfortable dancing with my new hair whipping around. Allison showed far more skill than I expected from her reserved nature. The arcade used to be at a larger lot on the other side of the mall. This one was far more cramped aside from the featured dance games. There were a few percussion games and countless one-trick-pony light-gun games. One wall had an entire row of old racing games of which only about half worked and many screens were burned and discolored at the edges. Only the dance and music games seemed like they were getting any upkeep. The skee-ball games didn't look half bad but the ticket dispensers were taped over.
The laser tag area looked like it was in perpetual reconstruction. There was an air hockey table towards the back and a much nicer pool table even further back which looked like it had been donated. I remembered the old location used to have a lot more fighting games from at least the last five years. The newest in this arcade was a blocky, polygon fighter with a spinny camera. The old ones were at least among the classics and there were a few 80s and early 90s shooters. Enough to cycle through to pass the time. I owed Candace a quick game of air hockey before she went back to looking at clothes.
Allison panted and clapped for us as we started our game. The puck was weathered but serviceable. Candace made a show of stretching and cracking her neck with a fluid animation. Then she shot the puck across the table to ding into the sidewall and ricochet vigorously like a pinball. It snuck into her own goal as she stayed outstretched and flailing. I smiled and she snorted.
Her strategy was, as it always was, speed and flailing. I guarded but her shots sometimes knocked the mallet out of my hand. We were about even for most of the game. She did a little martial-artsy move and then used her free hand as a quick distraction. I won by a few and half of my points were faults on her part. Candace spun her mallet and gave a quick little salute before dragging Allison off to the clothing store. I slid mine like a hovercraft till the air turned off.
The arcade was pretty quiet, especially with Candace gone. I strolled and struggled to keep my hair under control. I knew the quiet games would be more for me. I played a top-down aircraft shooter I'd never tried before but it was like 1941. It only nibbled at my change since it was generous with free lives. I couldn't tell you how long I played but I eventually stopped when one particular "boss" kept wiping me out.
From there, I looked around and considered what to try next. I noticed someone sitting in the empty area which would've been reserved for redeeming tickets. Her hair was stark-white with the same kind of shading tint mine had now. It looked feathery with a blue ribbon holding it up in a high ponytail. She looked small, even smaller than me (although still not as small as mom).
She wore what looked like runner's clothes influenced in her style, a pale-blue, hooded drawstring jacket with a matching pair of nylon pants. She had a book out in front of her and was reading intently. She glanced up a moment, noticing me. Her eyes were brilliant lavender with a core of royal purple. She leaned back and scratched at her neck before asking, "Is there anything I can help you with?"
I spoke to tell her that I was fine but the sound of my words was closer to how Allison spoke than how I wanted my words to sound. I continued with an assurance that I was fine. This time, my voice sounded oddly closer to how I usually spoke. Adding a few more words, I found I sounded more like some female newscaster I remembered from TV. With that, I stopped talking and just smiled at her.
She gave me a slight smile in return and asked, "How long have you been changing?"
I asked for the time in a voice similar to an actress who did a lot of singing. I was surprised how much time had passed since we arrived at the mall. She bent under the counter and came up with what looked like a bar stool. She set it in front of me and I used it.
She nodded when I told her about how long and remarked, "You are still cooking but getting there. I assume you were a bit taller when you started the day."
Her voice was steady and had the tone of someone more mature. It had an even depth that didn't flitter about like Candace's words or step softly about the sounds like Allison's words. Her voice was more like my mother's.
I confirmed her assumption and resisted saying more, folding my arms slightly. She watched me and noted, "I saw it as a blessing when it happened to me, like I had been touched by something beyond myself. You see, I am older than I look…"
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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.