These days, of course, the paramedics would use an immobilization or sleep spell on a hysterical hermaphrodite. Such spells are preferred over drugs because there are generally fewer side effects. Since such things were not yet known to the world, they filled me full of something that had me feeling like I was floating on clouds and watching everything around me from a considerable distance. I distinctly remember thinking to myself that such a feeling must have inspired Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” It had been one of my father’s favorite songs and the words kept running through my mind, especially the haunting refrain.
I have other vague memories of the hours that followed; of an ambulance ride and a hospital room, of concerned faces peering down at me, of prodding and poking, of whispered conversations. Through it all I hummed the melody from “Comfortably Numb” to myself and wondered when this odd dream would be over. Finally I slipped into something resembling normal sleep.
I realized that I was awake when I heard a familiar voice. “I’m fine mom,” said Barb’s voice. “Of course I’ll come home and see you both as soon as I can but for now I want to make sure Dan is ok.”
I decided to try opening my eyes and was rewarded with the sight of Barb sitting near my bed. She was talking into her cell phone with one hand and toying with a stray strand of her hair with the other. Most of her hair was piled atop her head in a style that was unusual for her. I must have made some sound because she looked down and met my gaze. “Oh! Mom, Dan’s awake. Gotta go, ok? Bye.” Putting the phone down she smiled at me, tilting her head in the way I had teased her about, calling it her “curious puppy” look. “How are you, Dan?”
“It wasn’t a dream, was it,” I rasped. My voice told me all I needed to know. It was husky with disuse but the tones were much higher than they should have been. Barb slowly shook her head.
I groaned and looked down at myself. I was in a typical hospital bed, with thick sheets covering most of my body except for my arms. They were far too thin and hairless to be mine, but they did seem to be attached to me despite what I thought of them. My left arm had a bandage on it just below the wrist. An IV with a nearly empty bag stood nearby and I wondered if that was the source of my odd dreams and ancient rock songs. More distressing were the emphatically feminine lumps and curves outlined by the sheets. I groaned again and shut my eyes.
“Oh God, it’s true. I’m a girl.” My voice was clearing up as I used it but that only added to my distress. That melodic soprano had no business coming from my mouth.
“Don’t worry about that just now,” said Barb firmly. “The important thing is that you are alive and well.”
I looked up at her in disbelief. “You’re kidding, right? Have you been keeping up with current events? Barb, I have bigger tits than you! Alive and well? You need to look up the definition of ‘well’ because I –”
My perfectly good rant was disrupted by Barb’s throaty laughter. “Oh Danny,” she said as she wiped tears of laughter from her eyes. “You must be feeling better – you always did have a flair for the dramatic.”
“I’m sorry, it’s not every day a guy grows…these.” I waved a hand at the sheets draped over the small mountains on my chest.
Barb took my hand in hers. I was disturbed to find that her hands were larger than mine. “I suppose not.” She looked down at our joined hands and smiled a little. “I have to admit that magic is real now, don’t I?”
“Oh my God. People turn into mermaids, pegasuses or pegasi or whatever, and I turn into…well, this…and you’re worried about admitting you were wrong? And I thought I was stubborn.” Barb gave that rumbling laugh again. That was odd, I thought. She normally giggled like a teenager. The laughter was accompanied by a strange thump at the end of my bed. From my prone position I could not see what had caused it, but I did notice that Barb was blushing suddenly. Seeing my look, she quickly said, “Hang on a second.” She reached behind my head and I heard a quiet clicking. “I’m calling the nurse so they know you’re awake.”
Instead of a nurse, we got a doctor. A slim woman with slightly graying black hair tied into an efficient bun at the nape of her neck stepped in after a perfunctory knock on the door. Her dark eyes quickly looked me over once before she said, “Welcome back to the land of the living, Mr. Latham. I am Dr. Elizabeth Kosar. How are you feeling?”
I blinked. “I have no earthly idea how to answer that,” I said finally. Even my normal sarcasm had fled, probably to Barb’s relief.
The doctor raised an eyebrow in a way that reminded me of Mr. Spock from Star Trek. I was definitely giddy; I half expected her to start lecturing me about accepting the “logic” of the situation. Instead she said, “Well let’s start with the basics. Are you in any pain?”
I shook my head slowly. “No, not really. I just feel…sensitive. The sheets, my hair, even – no offense Barb – people holding my hand seems more intense to me.”
Barb’s grip loosened a bit on my hand as the doctor smiled a little. “I suspect that you’re just experiencing what a woman’s skin feels like. People say that females are more sensitive, though you’re one of the first people in history who can really tell us for sure.”
I harrumphed. “Lucky me.” I decided my new voice was far too girly to grumble properly. It sounded downright cute.
The doctor’s eyes narrowed a bit. “Yes, you are lucky,” she said crisply. “You are not the only person in this hospital to experience a transformation the last few days and you at least look generally human. With the right clothing you can even pass for a normal woman.”
I considered that for a moment. “There have been other changes here in Indy?”
Barb and the doctor exchanged a glance and Barb shook her head slightly. The doctor shrugged and looked back at me. What the hell was going on? “There have been a number of cases here. Some are pretty minor, like hair or eye color. Others are more involved, with people becoming new races or even gaining some amazing powers. Then there are the more extreme cases. But before we get to all of that, let’s talk a bit more about your situation. Do you recall what happened?”
Her dark eyes probed mine intently, so intently that I looked down to escape her gaze. This was a mistake as I was once more confronted by the most obvious manifestation of my change. The hospital sheets could not disguise the rounded swellings of my new breasts. I could even feel the sheets pressing on them and a slight shifting of their weight as I breathed.
“Danny?” prodded the doctor.
Choosing the lesser of two evils, I looked at her once more. “Yes, I remember…mostly. I was talking to my bosses about a design when…” I blushed. “I got…excited.” The word “excited” did not do it justice. I had been more intensely aroused than a herd of horses in mating season. I was so embarrassed I could not meet the doctor’s gaze any longer and I certainly did not want to see the look in Barb’s eyes so I stared at a point between them. “It was incredible. I’ve never felt like that in my life. Then I, um…started to change when I, well, you know...” I could feel Barb’s embarrassment echoing my own. My cheeks heated up as my blush deepened. I could not bring myself to go into more detail. Finally I mumbled, “I’m sorry, Barb. I couldn’t control it.”
Barb squeezed my hand and then placed a finger along my cheek, pressing gently, forcing me to turn my head and look in her eyes. “Listen to me Danny, listen closely. No one thinks any less of you because of what happened. We know it had something to do with this—“ she waved a hand vaguely in the air “—whatever it is that is happening. I know you’re embarrassed but it was not your fault. I do not want to hear you blaming yourself or getting sorry for yourself. Got it?”
I nodded. “Yes, sergeant,” I said meekly.
Barb smirked. “Smart ass.”
The doctor cleared her throat to get our attention. In a very delicate tone of voice she asked, “The people who were with you say that you were…examining…yourself just before you passed out. Do you understand your new condition?”
I bit my lip and nodded, then shook my head, then sighed. “Yes, I know what I felt under my clothes. No, I don’t understand it. And most of all, I don’t understand why it happened to me. You’re the doctor – why don’t you tell me what’s happened?” Barb’s grip tightened on my hand and she gave me one of her patented looks. I shrugged.
“I understand that this is extremely difficult for you to accept,” said the doctor. “Let’s take it a step at a time. We did a physical examination when you arrived here yesterday.” She held up a clipboard with various colored sheets of paper fluttering on it. “The doctor who examined you describes a Caucasian woman approximately eighteen to twenty-two years of age in good physical health and condition. Standard blood tests were clear of any disease. Blood pressure, temperature, and other vitals all normal. Heart and lungs are in outstanding condition.” She paused. “However, the examination also found that you have unusually dense muscle mass for a woman and that you possess both male and female sexual organs. The sexual organs appear to be mature, healthy, and functional.” She looked up from the clipboard. “This is quite remarkable, by the way. There have been cases of people born with both sets of organs, but usually only one set becomes fully developed.”
“OK, so I’m a bit of both. Why is my body so…well…” I traced the outline of a shapely woman in the air with my figure. Barb snorted next to me.
“Voluptuous?” supplied the doctor. “Frankly, we’re a bit puzzled by that as well. Most hermaphrodites are a result of unusual genetic conditions, such as having multiple X or Y chromosomes. This usually creates a person who looks androgynous or perhaps slightly feminine. Your body’s structure and secondary characteristics are all those of a very athletic and well developed young woman, the only exception being your penis.” Barb cleared her throat and shifted a bit. “Ms. Lewis, if you’re uncomfortable with this part of the discussion, perhaps you would like to wait outside?”
Barb shook her head once. “No, I’ll stay.” She stared resolutely at one of the pastel paintings on the wall but she did stay.
“What else, doc?”
“We won’t know about your genetic makeup for a few days. All we can say for sure at this point is that you most likely have an entirely new set of genes.” Really doc? I wanted to say. What was your first clue? The fact that I suddenly need a bra or the naturally red hair? I bit my tongue, though, and congratulated myself for my restraint. “This next part is the most unusual aspect of your change,” continued the doctor. “You don’t have a separate set of male and female sex organs, but rather your genitalia seem to encompass both male and female aspects. Your scrotum, for example, appears to be merged with your outer labia. The testicular tissue is distributed internally but is functional. Your urinary tract is routed through your penis, not the normal female urethra. In other words, your sexual organs look as though they were designed to be the way they are. Your body is similar to a normal human’s, but different – almost as though it represents a new gender.”
I gaped at the doctor. I understood her words but I could not make sense of them. Her calm, professional voice had just stripped away my humanity and I could not think of a thing to say in response. The last time I had felt this way I had screamed my pretty new voice hoarse and fainted. I was improving. This time I just started crying. I had not cried since my parents’ deaths a few years before and even then it had been a masculine sort of sniffling, teary-eyed sorrow. This was entirely different. My entire body shook with gut-wrenching sobs. I had never felt so alone in my life.
Then a strong pair of arms wrapped themselves around me, lifting me slightly so that I was leaning against a soft torso. Barb’s voice whispered softly in my ear, telling me everything would be fine, not to worry, that it was alright to cry. She should not have said that – I cried in her arms until I was too tired to cry anymore, just like a baby.
Finally I pushed back from her and asked for a tissue. Mopping my nose and cheeks cleared my vision enough to see that the doctor had left, probably in search of patients not subject to fainting or crying jags. Barb had stayed though, and I realized for perhaps the first time what a good friend she truly was. “Thank you,” I told her. “And I’m sorry. I have not cried like that since I was a little boy.”
She patted my hand. “Get used to it, sweetie. From the way you’re acting I’d say those new hormones of yours are mostly female. You’re probably just getting used to them.”
I looked down at her hand enfolding mine and sighed at how small my hand looked. Then I realized that my sheets had slipped down during my crying fit, far enough to expose the top edge of my hospital gown. “They didn’t,” I muttered to myself. I grabbed the sheet and moved it just enough to confirm my suspicions.
“Is everything ok?”
“Look at this, Barb. It’s got flowers. Everywhere.” I pushed the sheet further down to show her the pastel floral pattern that covered my new body. “Pink ones!”
You know, it’s only your friends that can really hurt you. Barb not only did not share my indignation, she only paused between bouts of laughter long enough to suggest other apparel they might have put on me, such as a bustier or a teddy. I stopped her with a wounded glare before she could get to pasties or tassels.
I continued glaring until she finally quieted down. “You know, I don’t even know what I look like.”
“The doctor thought that might be on your mind. Here.” She pressed a large hand-held mirror, like the ones they have at the barber shop, in my hand. I took it but hesitated. “Go on,” she said. “You’re not ugly or anything. In fact, I think you’ll like what you see.”
I looked at her dubiously but turned the mirror towards my face. I have to confess that I had not thought much about how I looked until that moment. I was expecting a feminine version of my face or perhaps some bizarre combination of male and female features. My reflection, though, showed a very attractive girl with enormous slightly canted dark green eyes, a strong nose that turned up slightly at the end, and soft red lips that were currently parted in a pouty look of surprise. Her skin was like pale ivory although a faint spray of freckles could barely be seen on her cheeks. A heavy mass of coppery curls framed her face and cascaded over her shoulders. She looked nothing at all like me but my initial shock was quickly replaced by a strange sensation of recognition, as though some part of me had been expecting to see this reflection.
“I’m a girl,” I said in wonder and watched as the girl in the mirror reflection mimed my words.
“Well, mostly,” said Barb with a snicker.
I gave her a brief glare. “You’re way too amused about this. That’s not what I meant though.” I looked at the strange features displayed in the mirror. “I meant that I look like I just graduated high school.”
“Yes, you do, Danny. The doctor mentioned that physically you seem to be around that age.”
I shook my head in wonder, watching my hair swirl about my face in the mirror. “Unreal.”
“See?” said Barb. “You’re very pretty. You look almost Irish with all that red hair and green eyes.”
I rolled those newly green eyes at her. The girl in the mirror mimicked the expression. It looked terribly cute on her. Suddenly I couldn’t stand the thought that it was me looking like that. “Well, everything’s ok then. I’ll just grab my clothes and go home. Oh wait, can’t wear the shirt because my tits ripped it open. Can I borrow a bra? Nope, that won’t work either; these whoppers are way bigger than yours.” I tossed the mirror on the bed.
“Hey! Look I know this is a big shock but—“
“You don’t know anything! Look at me! Everything about me is different. I’m part girl, part boy. Typical for me – I couldn’t just turn into a normal girl, I had to turn into something not even human!”
Barb’s eyes narrowed and from the gleam in them I suddenly knew I had been missing something important. “Shut up,” she told me. “You think you’re the only one who’s been affected by this?”
That stopped my rant before it could even get started. Lots of little things were adding up. Like the strange rumbling laugh, her oddly muscular arms, the looks she and the doctor had exchanged, and the odd-but-familiar scent in the room. “Barb,” I said quietly. “What’s happened to you?”
She grimaced. “Finally, a light goes on, eh? I changed a few hours after you did. I was walking into the hospital to see you when, well…this grew.” She reached behind her back and brought it back holding a long tail covered in short golden brown fur and tipped with a long tuft of hair the same deep brown as the hair on her head. The tip twitched a bit, pulling out of her hand. Barb smiled like a mother would at an unruly child. “It seems to have a mind of its own sometimes. Oh, and so do these.” She reached up and unpinned her hair. As the glossy brown tresses fell about her face, they were parted on either side by tapering points that I realized were the tops of her ears. They were covered in a short gold fur like her tail. As I watched one rotated to catch a sound. Finally I realized what the strange scent in the room had been. I had last smelled such an odor at the zoo near the exotic felines exhibit.
“You have a lion’s tail? And ears?” I sputtered. Then I noticed something else. “Your eyes weren’t green yesterday, were they?”
She laughed. “Can’t sneak anything by you, can I? Yes, we both got green eyes yesterday. Mine are a little different than yours though.” She leaned in closer to me and I saw that her eyes were not only light green but much larger than they had been, with pupils that were slightly elongated from top to bottom.
“So you’re a cat-girl? Like the teacher we heard about?”
She shook her head. “Not exactly. Remember what I said about admitting magic is real? I kind of have to now.”
“OK…I’ll bite. Why?”
“Because this is not my only form,” Barb said carefully, watching me. I tried and failed to ignore how her tail was weaving back and forth behind her as she looked at me. “In fact, I’m not even sure this one is my normal form anymore.”
“Not your only form? I’m not sure what that means.”
She grinned. “I can’t say that I completely understand either.” She stood up and walked to a spot near the door clear of furniture and medical equipment. “It’s probably easier to just show you.”
I had seen what happened to the GNN reporter and had experienced my own transformation, but I was still shocked to see fur rapidly growing over Barb’s neck and hands. Her clothes wavered like heat waves on a summer day and were gone, revealing a body rapidly covering itself in a thick golden pelt. She seemed to be growing taller as well, though it became harder to tell as she leaned forward onto the big paws that had replaced her hands.
The transformation was over very quickly, leaving a creature right of out of mythology in place of my friend. Her legs and lower torso were now completely those of a lioness. The legs that had replaced her arms, though, transitioned into smooth human skin just below the shoulder. Her upper torso was a blend of lioness and woman, with fur across her back and firm, slightly furry breasts topped by big dark brown nipples between her new forelegs. Her face was larger to match the rest of her but overall it had changed the least. Her eyes were larger and more leonine. Her mouth and nose swelled slightly outward, hinting at a muzzle. Her neck seemed longer and more flexible than a human’s. It was definitely my friend’s head attached to that massive lioness’s body, though.
I realized my mouth was hanging open and deliberately shut it. “You’re a sphinx. Oh my God, you’re a sphinx!”
Barb-the-sphinx tilted her head at me, the familiar mannerism looking very out of place on the mythological marvel that had appeared in my hospital room. “You’re not going to scream again, are you?” she wondered suspiciously. Her voice was deeper and louder now.
I had to laugh. Well, giggle nervously. “Not as long as you stay over there. How did you do that?”
Barb shrugged, making her breasts bounce between her legs. She seemed blithely unconcerned about her naked state so I tried not to stare. “I changed all the way into a sphinx soon after I got my new ears and tail. I didn’t have any control over that change, but I had the oddest feeling of energy flowing from inside me. I reached for that energy again – and I was back to being me. Well, me as a cat-girl.”
“You don’t seem too unhappy about this. Look at yourself! You don’t even have hands!”
She looked down at her paws, raising one off the floor. She gave an evil grin and I could see muscles flex under her fur as sharp claws extended from her feline toes. “Yeah, but I do have these,” she purred. Yes, purred, complete with a rumbling at the end that made me shiver.
“Umm, Earth to Barb. You still with us?”
She focused on me again and then winked. “Making you nervous? Sorry, I seem to like doing that since I changed. Must be a cat thing.”
“OK…so why aren’t you freaking out?”
“I don’t know,” she said simply as she sat down on her rear haunches, tail flipping around behind her. Her head was even with mine as I lay in the hospital bed. “It just…feels right. Like I was always this way and just realized it. Did you ever look in the mirror one day and see that you had grown a little older, you just hadn’t really paid attention to it? I feel that way, like I have always been a sphinx inside and I was just waiting for the right moment to show it.”
I stared at her for a moment. “Always a sphinx, you say? And I’m the one they shot full of drugs?”
Barb gave her rumbling laugh. “Hey, I didn’t scream my fool head off. I think poor Joe may never recover.”
I groaned. “I hadn’t even thought about work! I suppose my days at Sadler and Fisk are over.”
My sphinx-ified friend’s eyes narrowed. “Why? I told you, it is not your fault you changed…or mine that I changed, for that matter.”
“Well, as you pointed out I put on quite a show.” I paused as a sudden thought struck me. “Ummm, how much did they see of, well, the new me?”
“Oh. Well your pants did not fit you very well after you stopped changing, and you were tearing them open to see what had happened. We all got a pretty good look. That reminds me, I do believe Ryan is in love with you.”
It was my turn to blink. “What?” My face also felt flushed again.
“Don’t you know? He’s into futanari – anime she-males. His eyes were as big as saucers when he saw…well, all of you.”
My cheeks were definitely blazing now. I reached up to feel them, amazed at how warmly they were blushing. “Thank you Barb. I’m a hermaphrodite that looks like a busty red-headed teenager, my best friend is a sphinx who’s sometimes a girl with a tail, and now you tell me that a geeky male intern is lusting after me. That pretty much tops off my weirdness quota for the—“
A third perfectly good rant was stopped short as Dr. Kosar pushed the door open, trapping Barb’s tail under it. I discovered two things at that point. First, sphinxes can roar nearly as loudly as their lion cousins. Second, my new body was perfectly capable of squealing like a twelve year old girl.