The Other Half of My Soul, part 11 of 11

Reminding myself of what I needed to do helped keep my mind off the huge empty feeling, the hole in my heart where my other self should be.


The Other Half of My Soul

Part 11 of 11

by Trismegistus Shandy


On further thought, I think I put the chapter break between 10 and 11 in an awkward place. Maybe I should have split them earlier, or lumped them together into one overlong chapter. Anyway, if you find the opening scene here confusing, try going back and re-reading the end of chapter 10 first.

 



 

My other self disappeared through the portal and I was suddenly just me. Still a pixie, but only me.

The Deep One took one of the cellphones and threw it into the portal, then the other, then one by one she threw in several of Leslie and Taylor’s other small possessions. I reminded myself that I would need to have the servants move the backpacks to a safe storage area.

Reminding myself of what I needed to do helped keep my mind off the huge empty feeling, the hole in my heart where my other self should be. I would have helped throw things into the portal, but most of them seemed too big for me to lift.

Not long after the Deep One ran out of small items to throw in, the portal shrank quickly to nothing. The Deep One looked at me, where I had perched on the edge of the bed again to get out of her way.

“Are you ready for me to change you back, Your Highness?” she asked. “I had expected that, if the Tenacious One was right, you would have transformed into a human man by now.”

“I think I will, if we don’t do something to stop it,” I said. “But it might take some time. We changed quickly when we were close together, but now that he’s so far away...” I thought about how I felt and how I ought to feel. Being a pixie, a female pixie, felt right; if I was going to change into a copy of Leslie, I’d probably start feeling what they call gender dysphoria in English a few minutes before the change happened. “Let me try changing myself first, and if I can’t, you can change me.” I closed my eyes and remembered my familiar nagini body, the shape I’d worn nearly all my life — a little different in the last couple of years, since I’d hatched Sakhi and been nursing her, but still recognizably the same shape I’d always had, except for a few days as Leslie five years ago and some hours in pixie form just lately... it seemed odd at first, the idea of not having wings, of having a naga-tail instead of legs, but I didn’t have to think about it for long before it was suddenly the other way around, and my wings and legs felt strange. Then I was growing, and my legs were fusing, and everything felt right again.

“I’ve got it,” I said cheerily. “Thank you for coming, O Deep One. I may need your help later on, if I can’t make this stick. But for now, you may go if you like; I will send for you if I need you. Or you may join me and the ladies of my court for dinner.”

“I would like to accept, Your Highness, but I have another appointment. Good evening.”

I put on a sari and slithered out of the room. After I’d found Talarikha and told her what to do with Leslie and Taylor’s backpacks, I went to the nursery, where Sakhi had just woken from a nap. I held her, and nursed her, and sang to her, trying not to think about the gaping emptiness that was Leslie’s absence. I knew I’d see him in dreams again, probably that night or certainly within a few nights, but we’d secretly hoped that our stronger link would hold us together even after he returned to his world. No such luck, apparently.

But after a while, when Sakhi got sleepy again and I put her down for a nap, I started feeling a little odd. It didn’t take long to identify that feeling: I was feeling I ought to be shaped like Leslie. And I wasn’t quite sure, but I thought my breasts might have shrunk a bit while I was playing with Sakhi.

I concentrated on my old, original self-image until that feeling went away, and my breasts returned to their normal size. Was I going to have to keep doing that every few hours for the rest of my life?

I ate supper with Sienpai, Michiko and the other ladies of my court, but I didn’t tell them what I was feeling and thinking, not yet. I said I was tired and wanted to retire early; I knew Leslie would be trying to get to bed early too, to get back on a reasonably sleep schedule for his California time zone, and I wanted to make sure we shared enough sleep time to dream together.

As I lay there waiting for sleep, I felt my self-image begin to waver, and my body begin to change. This time, alone and under the covers, I didn’t resist it; I think I was already male and halfway to human by the time I fell asleep.


We were pixies again, flying through the trees in a dense forest. We spiraled around tree-trunks and over branches, buzzing squirrels and deer and laughing maniacally as they ran from us. Then, without any obvious transition, we were flying through the Santa Cruz branch of the Travel Agency. There were our Leslie self and Taylor, looking around and not finding any clothes; they didn’t seem to see us. We flew around a corner and were in the palace, hovering over our Serenikha self, who was slithering toward the nursery. That reminded us of all she’d been doing in the last few hours. Could we talk to her? We tried, but she didn’t seem to see or hear us. We got bored and flew out into the garden...


“So Serenikha can stay in nagini form, but it takes concentration?”

“Yeah, she has to concentrate to change back whenever she feels herself starting to change. I think she’ll have to do that four or five times a day, if she had to do it twice in the last few hours of the day.”

“I hope it won’t be that often all the time — it will probably be less often when you’re in a lower-magic area. Travel Agency offices are always in high-magic areas, so most places should be better than this.”

“Like my dorm?”

“Yes, that’s higher-magic than most parts of your campus but definitely less than this office.”

Just then we heard a voice: “Taylor? Are you decent?”

“No!” Taylor called back. “That’s why I asked you to bring us some clothes.”

“All right. I’m going to leave them outside the door here, and go back to the lobby.”

Taylor rolled her eyes. I opened the door and saw a pile of clothes in the floor, and a tall guy’s back disappearing around the corner.

We got dressed, and went out to the lobby. The Imperturbable One looked at us and said: “Sorry that stuff doesn’t fit. Professor G. didn’t tell me your exact sizes, so I had to guess.”

“No need to apologize,” I said, though my pants were so baggy I’d had to cut an extra hole in the belt with a staple-remover I’d found in the storage room. “How much do we owe you for this stuff?”

“I think I’ve got the receipts in the car, you can pay me back later. Most of it’s from a thrift store, except the underwear.” He’d given us unopened plastic packages of boxer shorts and panties. “Just donate whatever doesn’t fit you. Come on, I’ll give you a ride to my condo and you can get a nap.”

Once we were in the car, he said to Taylor, who was sitting up front next to him: “So you managed to open up a portal by yourself? And you went through it? That was either really brilliant or really stupid. Maybe both.”

“Well, here we are now,” Taylor said. “No worse for wear.” But she glanced over her shoulder at me when she said that; I smiled reassuringly.

“Why did you need new clothes? Professor G. didn’t explain that part.”

“Well, I didn’t have enough power for a full-sized portal...” She explained on the way to his condo, and that led to a much longer explanation of our adventures in the last couple of weeks; I pitched in now and then, though we didn’t tell him all the details about my link with Serenikha or how it had changed. We wound up sitting and drinking coffee in his living room, telling him the last of it.

“This is fascinating,” he said, looking at a clock, “but I need to get back and open up the Travel Agency for business. Make yourselves at home, help yourself to the food in the cabinets or the refrigerator; I’ll be back a little after five.”


The Imperturbable One pulled into Mom and Dad’s driveway a little after seven-thirty that evening. I had dozed off during the drive, after listening to Taylor and the older mage talk for a while, but I didn’t share a dream with Serenikha; it was late morning in the palace, and she must be awake. I woke when we got off the expressway onto surface roads, probably because of the change in noise level and acceleration, and found that Taylor and the Imperturbable One (she was calling him “Ike” now; I wondered irrelevantly if he had his customers call him “Mr. I.”?) were still talking, more animatedly than ever. They’d been talking about places in the other world they’d been when I fell asleep; now they were talking about their favorite movies...

I thought I could see what was going on, and didn’t contribute to the conversation except when Taylor noticed I was awake and asked me if I remembered what movie it was that had Kat Denning playing a centaur. (I didn’t.)

“No, I haven’t seen that one,” the Imperturbable One (or Ike) said; “but if you thought the centaurs were unusually authentic, I’m guessing it’s more likely the screenwriter or director who’s been to the other world, rather than Kat Denning. I know the Audacious One — do you know him? He opened a Travel Agency office in Los Angeles a few years ago. Anyway, he’s been doing a special promotion, saying that this exotic country’s Chamber of Commerce wants Hollywood to set more movies there so they’re offering low-cost vacations to writers, directors and so forth... all part of the plan, you know, getting people used to the idea of the other world before the worlds run smack into each other.”

“I bet the screenwriter would have — oh, hey, turn right at that blue house with the lawn gnomes.”

And then we were on Mom and Dad’s street, and a minute later in front of their house. With my car, Taylor’s, Mom’s and Dad’s all in the driveway there wasn’t room for Ike’s car too, and Taylor told him to park on the street.

I got out and walked up to the front door. Taylor and Ike were coming along behind me, slower, still talking; I gave them some distance to be alone for a few moments. Mom opened the door before I had time to knock more than once, and threw her arms around me.

“I’m so glad you’re home safe!” And, when she had done hugging me for the moment, she jogged down the driveway toward Taylor.

“Hi, Dad,” I said. “We’re back.”

“It’s good to see you. What’s happened in the last, hmm, four days? That’s the last time Ms. G. called us with an update. Your sister called this morning to say you were back, and again a few minutes ago, but she didn’t give us a lot of details.”

“But you have to stay for supper,” Mom was saying, as she, Taylor and Ike approached the door. Dad and I got inside and out of their way.

“I’ve got a long drive home, and I need to work tomorrow... I can stay for maybe half an hour but not long,” Ike said.

“No luggage?” Dad asked.

“No, just our cellphones. And the jewelry Mom gave us — the rest, with some clothes and stuff, is in storage at the palace until Taylor can open another big portal. We had to come back as pixies through a little bitty portal.”

“At least take a cup of coffee or tea while you’re here,” Mom urged.

“I can do that,” Ike said. “Thank you.”

I went and changed into some better-fitting clothes from the closet of my old bedroom, and when I came back, Ike was talking to Mom and Dad; Taylor had apparently gone to change clothes too.

“I wasn’t there when they came back,” he was saying, “that was in the middle of the night, apparently. They called me from my office first thing in the morning to tell me they were there...”

So I filled them in on what happened, but I didn’t want to get into the whole thing about my link with Serenikha just then, because I knew it would be a long discussion and it would be interrupted when Ike had to leave. I was about to pay Ike for the clothes and shoes he’d gotten us when Taylor came in, having changed clothes as well.

“So,” I said, “should I make the check out to ‘the Imperturbable One’? Or do your customers call you ‘Mr. I.’?”

He coughed in embarrassment. “I, uh, usually only go by ‘the Imperturbable One’ when I’m in the other world. People don’t take you seriously as a mage unless you have a name like that. And the Gray One can get away with being all mysterious and calling himself ‘Mr. G.’ or ‘Ms. G.’ or ‘Professor G.’, but — well, my customers call me Mr. Isaacson and my friends call me Ike.”

“Your parents must be long-time customers of Mr. G.,” Dad said. “Anyone we might know?”

He ducked his head slightly as he said, “Well, I think my father was more into it than my mom. I don’t remember him, he left us when I was a baby... My mom only went to the other world just the once, when she was pregnant with me and didn’t know it yet, and she didn’t like it. I didn’t find out about it until Mr. G. found me and told me I’d won a free vacation, the summer after I’d graduated from high school... and when I got back from spending a week over there as a domovoi, he told me that I had some talent for magic because my parents had been customers of his back when Mom was pregnant with me. When I told Mom about it, she told me a little bit more about my father than I’d ever heard before, but still not much, and about how she’d gone to the other world with him once...”

He wound up staying a lot longer than he’d said he could, through supper and for a little while longer; and I think he talked more with Taylor than with any of the rest of us, which strengthened the suspicions I’d formed during our drive to Mom and Dad’s house. Mom and Dad regaled him with stories about their travels in the other world, and Taylor and I told them about our visit with Serenikha, though we left a lot of details out on the first telling. We exchanged negotiating glances as we got to the point in the story where my link with Serenikha got so strong, and I went on from there without mentioning it yet.

Finally, Ike said he really had to get home. Dad gave him a cup of coffee for the road, and after lingering for a while at the door with Taylor, while Mom, Dad and I hung discreetly back, he left.

Taylor waved at him one more time and then closed the door. When she turned toward us, I saw that Mom was on the point of asking her something — a question Taylor might not be ready to answer. I decided to take the heat off her.

“So,” I said, “there’s something I forgot to mention earlier. About my link with Serenikha...”

 



 

That's all; thanks for reading and commenting. In two or three weeks, probably, I'll start serializing a 23,000 word novella in Morpheus's Twisted universe. It's a semi-sequel to my Twisted Throwback, about Emily's Uncle Jack and cousin Tim, but it should stand alone tolerably well.

If you've enjoyed this and the other free stories I've posted here, you may also enjoy these novels and short fiction collection -- available from Smashwords in ePub format and from Amazon in Kindle format. (Smashwords pays its authors more than other retailers.)

The Bailiff and the Mermaid Smashwords Amazon
Wine Can't be Pressed into Grapes Smashwords Amazon
When Wasps Make Honey Smashwords Amazon
A Notional Treason Smashwords Amazon
The Weight of Silence and Other Stories Smashwords Amazon


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