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The Blind Pig: Tara's Story
by Radioactive Loner
Radioactive Loner -- all rights reserved

My eyes slowly fluttered open, and instantly knew something was wrong. My body just ... FELT different ... wrong. I glanced down at the outline of my body underneath the sheets, and realized immediately there was a major problem. My feet were nowhere near as long as they used to be, and instead of my potbelly curving gently out of the sheets, I saw two large mounds much closer to my head. With a start, I whipped off the sheets, jolted upright, swinging my legs off the side of the bed, and looked down at my body.

As I swung upright, brown hair cascaded down on my back and shoulders. I felt large weights in my chest pull me down, but my entire body felt a great deal lighter than they used to be. My arms were much more slimmer, and had no hair on them. My hands were more thinly-boned and delicate. I slowly got up from the bed, feeling the weight of breasts against my chest, and I looked in the mirror. A brown-haired beauty looked back at me with a startled expression on her face. She was wearing the T-shirt and sweats that I had worn to bed last night. They both hung loose and baggy on her -- except the T-shirt was taut around her chest, and the sweatpants grew taut around her hips and butt.

"Wow," I said to myself, and heard the soft contralto of my voice echo back to me. Looking at myself in the mirror, one word blazed across my mind -- SCABS.

About one year ago, a coworker at the box office where I'm working between auditions came down with the Martian Flu. I don't understand why, but I was the only person who worked there who managed to pick it up from him.

And yes, I knew the risks when I contracted the disease -- after all, who couldn't? When the epidemic first spread, Martian Flu and SCABS information was bombarded at people with such a fervor by the government and the health industry that you couldn't help but know most of the details.. But I was optimistic as more time passed and I didn't notice anything changing about me. The statistics did say that only one in twelve people contracted Stein's Chronic Accelerated Bio-morphic Syndrome from the Martian Flu, and I figured that I had been one of the lucky eleven with no side effects from the flu who had made it out alive.

Guess I was wrong, on that count.

I looked at the woman in the mirror. I had shrunk

by a good four or five inches. I had certainly lost

one hell of a lot of weight. The woman that I was looking at could've posed for lingerie advertisements, frankly. Soft, delicate features: piercing brown doe-like eyes, a patrician nose, full lips all crowned

by soft, wavy brown hair -- hair that fell upon

narrower shoulders, hair that just about touched two new additions to a torso that tapered off to a much tinier waist. The T-shirt I had worn to bed was baggy around the stomach, but jutted out around my ...

Damn it, I swore at myself. Say it.

Fine. I have ... breasts.

I hooked a finger around the elastic waistband of my sweatpants and peered down into my pants. My underwear had become so ridiculously large compared to my waist size that it would not stay up around my waist, and it had slid down to hang on my hips. Since the men's underwear was hanging so low, a little bit of brown pubic hair was visible outside of the waistband. And suffice it to say that a certain presence that normally would've filled out that underwear was no longer there.

I let the elastic of my sweatpants snap back gently, and brought my hand back up. My hand was a lot more ... well, dainty might be a sexist word for it, but the bones were definitely smaller and more delicate than they had been before.

My arms also were definitely more delicate, and what little hair there was on them was very fine and sparse. Okay, I said to myself. This woman in the mirror is you.

You're a woman.

Now let's figure out what we're going to do. And above all means, let's keep calm. It's okay to feel the weirdness of the situation, just don't let your fear control you. Okay. What's the first thing we can do here? Let's get dressed, then go to a doctor.

Perhaps not the best idea to begin with, my mind responded. Getting dressed, yes ... although what'll fit? But better make sure you don't run into a doctor prejudiced against SCABS ... 'cause, my friend, that's what you are now. Welcome to the group.

I grimaced. I had been a white heterosexual man -- and while I had friends whose sexual preference and race were discriminated against, and I had fought with them, I had never experienced discrimination directly. I suppose that was about to change.

I sat down at my computer and loaded up the Microsoft Internet Research Wizard. "Shakespeare," I addressed it, "find me a doctor nearby that handles SCABS." The computer flicked over to a Web-based business telephone directory and consulted with it for a few seconds, then presented me with a list of doctors in my area.

"The following doctors mention treatment of SCABS on their Web pages," came the soft voice of the computer, and three of them were highlighted on the screen.

"This doctor," it said, zooming in one particular address, "carries the highest rating by the American Medical Association and is also covered by your medical insurance. Research complete. Would you like to make an appointment?"

Later that morning I found myself making my way into an office. I had pulled on some jeans and a T-shirt. I still couldn't bring myself to wear a brassiere, but I was also hunching my back so that they didn't quite stick out as much. I found I was still getting very used to the different world around me ... being so much smaller was a big adjustment to get used to. Having to reach farther to press elevator buttons. Instead of being taller than a lot of people, having a lot of people taller than me.

I walked into the office and quietly said to the secretary (a fiftyish warty-looking old shrew), "My name is Paul Bard, I'm here for my appointment."

She looked up at me. "Paul, dear?"

I looked at her, and began to get frustrated. I didn't know how much longer I could hold onto myself like this. "Yes, Paul. Paul Bard. I woke up this morning like this and--"

"Mr.--, uh, Ms. Bard--"

"Never mind, Ms. Argyle. I'll take it from here," came a bass voice. "Paul?" said a young man in a lab coat coming 'round the corner. I nodded.

"Nice to meet you. I'm Dr. Taylor." As we walked into an examination room, he apologized. "Ms. Argyle's a bit new on the job, and for that, I really do apologize."

"Okay, Paul," Dr. Taylor flipped a chair around backwards and straddled it, taking a look at me. "I'm going to give it to you straight, 'cause something tells me you need it that way at this point."

I nodded silently.

"To confirm the obvious diagnosis, yes, you did contract Stein's Chronic Accelerated Bio-morphic Syndrome. Specifically, you contracted the strain that causes gendermorphism. Your body will transform between your old body and your current body.

"What I don't know," he said, continuing, "is whether your transformation is voluntary or involuntary. You couldn't transform now, but frankly, I'm not surprised. It's been an extremely stressful day, and I know you're in emotional disarray, so you probably don't feel much in control of anything at this point. But do continue to try."

"The next thing, Paul? It will probably make life easier on you to create two personas. Don't let it actually split you down the middle; we've had quite a couple situations where SCABS have almost developed multiple personalities in order to cope with the physical disassociation from their bodies. But when you're like this, you may wish to consider a female name."

"Okay," I said softly.

"There are certain things, both physical and societal, that you're going to have to get used to now, Jim. Physically, you've got fully functional female plumbing, and that means you're going to have to deal in this form with the change in how you excrete, as well as your monthly menstrual flow. Societally, there's so much more that you'll have to remember that I couldn't possibly go into it. Keeping your legs crossed when you sit, changes in body language ... but you'll pick it up as you go along."

"Yeah," I said quietly, "I hope."

"Don't worry," said Dr. Taylor. "I have a feeling you will." He clapped me on the shoulder. "Lastly, I want you to visit this place when you feel ready." He scribbled down the name of an address on a piece of paper.

I took the paper and turned around towards the door. I looked at the piece of paper and turned around in confusion. "The Blind Pig Gin Mill?" But what awaited me there stopped me even further.

A woman in a white lab coat smiled at me. "Yes. It's a bar for people with SCABS. I don't think you'll feel quite as alone there."

I gaped.

She held a finger to her lips. "Don't tell Mrs. Argyle. I'm sure I'll see you there."

I shook my head in disbelief as I left the office, then grimaced. Damn long hair. I suppose it's something I'm going to have to get to used to. That's the best attitude to take, I suppose. Not much I can do to pretend that this whole disease is a dream and I'm going to wake up tomorrow like nothing ever happened.

Fact One: I'm a SCAB. With all that's inherent to.

Fact Two: I'm a woman. With all that's inherent to. For the moment, at least, until I figure whether I can transform back and forth or not.

So, what's the best thing to do?

Start over again.

I sat down at a table in the city's library with a 'name your baby' book and turned to the section marked 'It's a girl!'. I looked down at myself, then back at the book.

That it is, I thought grimly.

I ran my finger down the list of names, until a couple leapt out at me.

Crystal. Crystal Bard? Sounds like a Miss USA contestant. Let's stay away from the glittery names, okay?

Ruth? Helen? Nancy? Bleh. Plainsville.

Lois? Too old-fashioned. Besides, I'd constantly be tempted to yell, "Save me, Superman!" I looked up and grinned. Okay, if I keep laughing, I can keep from crying.

Wanda? NO.

Paula? Um. Hm. Well, I really don't like the name, but it does have the advantage of being so close to 'Paul.'

Hmmm ... Tara. Tara. That's not bad. And there's that town in Ireland named 'Tara' ... okay, it's on the top ten list.

A few hours later, I had decided that I was now Tara Bard. It was strange, but somehow it felt like a good name.

Back at the apartment.

Time for that wonderful telephone call.

"Um, hello, Mom? Yes, I ... uh, there's really no easy way to get around this. Mom, it's Paul. No, I didn't get a sex-change op--Mom, Mom, listen to me, 'kay? You remember when I got the Martian Flu 'couple--Mom, listen. MOM! Okay. I contracted SCABS. Yes. SCABS. No, the one that turns people into animals is just one strain. I got another. Yes. I got one that causes what they call 'gendermorphism'. Yeah. I don't know, I might be able to change back and forth. I can't yet. Mom. Ma, cut it out. How can I prove it's me? Do you remember when you told me about almost leaving Dad back when he was getting dr--yes, exactly, you never told anyb--okay. Listen, I gotta go. I'll visit you soon, yes, I--I kinda need to be ready first. Yes, okay, by--" <Click.>

Well. That was fun.

The rain was hitting the street pretty hard, and I walked along a side street until I saw a classy wooden sign with "The Blind Pig Gin Mill" engraved on it in a fancy script hanging above a doorway. I walked up to the door and leaned on it.

Wow. Yes, this was definitely the bar Dr. Taylor had spoken of.

There was a man who appeared to be mostly mule racking up some pool balls in the corner with a gentleman who looked nothing less like a full-fledged werewolf over there in the corner.

I walked up to the bar, where there stood a very large animal ... no, a person, Paul, not an animal ...

Um, I mean, "A person, Tara, not an--"

Aw, hell. This is gonna be tough.

Anyhow, the guy appeared to resemble a rather large bull, almost -- he really didn't look like a cow or a bull, but I couldn't quite place what animal he was.

He held up a sign that said "What will you have?"

"I'll have a Coca-Cola."

He grabbed a cup, held a soda gun above it for a few seconds, then handed it to me.

"That'll be a dollar," a woman in an apron said, coming up to me. "Donnie here can't speak."

"That's a shame," I said.

"What brings you in here?" she said.

"My ... um, my doctor recommended the place," I said.

She looked sympathetically at me. "How recently did you get SCABS?"

"I woke up this morning like this," I said, gesturing.

"Welcome to the club," the waitress said, smiling. "I used to be 'Edward.' Now I'm Edwina," she said, extending her hand.

Wow. You don't know how incredible it was to find someone who had gone through the same things I had. "Hi," was nearly all I could manage. "Paul. I picked out 'Tara' as a female name -- couldn't stand the idea of the name 'Paula.'"

She laughed. "You gotta pick what works. Gee, this morning! That's pretty incredible recovery time."

"Just kept moving, you know," I said. "Didn't want to give myself time to think."

"Understood," she said, getting a serious expression on her face. "Well, hey, don't feel alone. Stephanie and Ranma are both regulars here who happened to get the same strain. I kinda have a different story -- maybe I'll tell you someday if we get to be good enough friends."

I gave her a half-smile. "That'd be nice," I said. As I sipped my Coke, I looked around at the motley crowd of the Blind Pig.

All around me, I saw people who were enjoying each other's presence. And in watching this display of people treating themselves in hearty camaraderie, love, and ... blessed normalcy ... I realized that I could see something else in this crowd.

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