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“Breaking news as we come on tonight … A repeat of a powerful electro-magnetic pulse, or EMP, will once again, strike western New York tomorrow night.”
Waves of adrenalin shot up my spine. I grabbed the TV clicker to turn up the sound.
(Anchor) “We turn now again to Dr. Urban Zapp, professor of electro-magnetic compatibility engineering at Cornell University. Dr. Zapp, can you explain how an EMP can repeat itself in the same geographical location on earth?”
(Dr. Zapp) “Well, the sun rotates about once every 27 days. And this is not a pun, but the sun has a particular ‘hot spot’ which tends to eject greater solar flares than other spots. Scientists have kept their eyes on this spot for the last month and earlier today saw another CME or coronal mass ejection at the same location. So it’s not exactly a coincidence. The sun is just repeating what it did last month … and the earth is spinning at the same rate.”
(Anchor) “Are you saying then, that western New York, and Buffalo in particular, will lose power again tomorrow?”
(Dr. Zapp) “It’s quite likely that we’ll be seeing a repeat of the event that occurred last month. It could even be more severe.”
(Anchor) “Doctor, is there a time estimate as to when this EMP will hit us?”
(Dr. Zapp) “The CME has already happened, and we’re expecting it to reach Earth between 10 and 11 pm tonight.”
(Anchor) “What would you advise the general public to do in preparation for this event?”
(Dr. Zapp) “There’s really not much you can do besides turn off your TVs and computers to prevent a possible overload. As far as personal safety is concerned, people should avoid direct contact with any live electrical conductor. That would create a ‘damped sinusoidal wave’ which operates at the same frequencies as human brain waves.”
(Anchor) “So what would happen to our brains in such a case?”
(Dr. Zapp) “All the electrical synapses in a person’s brain could be transferred, in whole, someplace else.”
(Anchor) “And has that ever happened, Doctor?”
(Dr. Zapp) “Not to my knowledge.”
(Anchor) “Thank you Dr. Zapp. We’ll be encouraging all our views out there to be vigilant and stay safe.”
Paul and I looked at each other and I posed a question. “Do you think it’s possible that Sam and I could switch back?”
Paul shook his head. “I don’t know, Derrek. But I think we should at least try to re-create as closely as possible, the same circumstances you and Sam had when you were on the plane.”
I frowned. “We probably won’t get struck by lightning again.”
He replied, “But you should at least set yourselves up and then see what happens. Sit side-by-side in chairs facing north, with your left hand squeezing Sam’s right.”
“Should I tell Sam now?”
“Just let him sleep. I don’t want to get his hopes up too high.”
The next morning’s breakfast was an unusual one … and very tense. I led off the conversation for the three of us, but I spoke in a serious tone.
“Sam, the news reports on TV are saying that another EMP will hit western New York tonight between 10 and 11 pm.”
That got the boy’s attention. He looked up from his cereal. “But, Mom, how can we change back if we don’t get struck by lightning?”
Paul bristled when he heard that remark. “Sam! Stop calling Derrek ‘Mom’! She’s not your mom and never will be.”
“I don’t know, sweety,” I replied to the boy. “But your dad says we should squeeze hands when it hits … similar to what we did on the plane.”
“Okay, I’ll do that,” Sam replied, “but it sounds like another million to one shot. Mom … I mean Derrek … I know I’m supposed to be this great psychologist that can lift people out of depression, but right now, I’m the one who’s really depressed. Everything I’ve worked for the last ten years could be gone.”
“I’ll always be there for you, sweety,” I tried to soothe the boy.
“No, you won’t!” Paul snapped at me. “You might look like Sammantha, but look what you’ve done. You’ve ruined Sammantha’s life.”
“Dad, no!” the boy shot back. “It’s not her fault that the first EMP switched our bodies.”
“You need to re-think that, Sam,” said the father. “The first time you met Derrek, you picked him up and adopted him as if he were a stray cat. He had nothing to offer you except a warm body for sex. You allowed him to use you and it came back to bite you in the ass.”
“But it wasn’t like that at all, Dad.”
The father shook his head. “Sam, the fact remains that if you had never gotten involved with Derrek, you wouldn’t be in the mess you are now … and you’d still have your career.”
“But I love Derrek. Derrek is a good person regardless of gender.”
“Sam, that’s all the more reason why, after tonight, I’m going to remove Derrek from your life so that you can take the time to figure out how to return to being a normal human being instead of a wild eleven-year-old sex maniac.”
“Dad, no! You can’t do that!”
“Go to your room, Sam … NOW!”
I watched as the boy went running and screaming up the stairs again. This was the mature grown adult psychologist that I knew so well, being treated like an impudent juvenile. My hero was being totally dressed down. Seeing this play out gave me a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I knew better than to continue the argument with Paul … because in the back of my mind, he made some good points. Asking me out on our first date may have been Sammantha’s worst decision.
Paul and I finished our breakfasts in silence.
“I need to run some errands today,” Paul told me. “I also want to ask Daniel to be with us tonight. I know he has a strong emotional tie to the two of you, and no matter what happens, I think he’ll want to be here.”
“Thanks, Paul,” I murmured.
After Paul left, I went back upstairs and laid down on the bed next to Sam (with our clothes on, of course). I snuggled next to his back and we both just rested. Outside, it was a drab day, matching our moods.
The time passed slowly and we didn’t say much, both of us ruing the coming day when Paul would forbid us to see each other. How could he do that? We were still two adults no matter what bodies we inhabited.
I started daydreaming about stupid stuff … like maybe I should marry Daniel if I was stuck being a girl … even though I’d rather marry Sam. But then, I have to wait probably five years till he turned 16. Then we could fly out to California which has no age requirement, but you’d have to get permission from the parents and one judge. Fat chance Paul would go along with that.
Paul came back home around 2 pm. He walked upstairs to check on us, but when he saw us napping, he chose to ignore the situation and went back down. We literally did nothing the whole afternoon. We had no confidence that the coming EMP would change anything. There was no lightning in the weather forecast for tonight. And even if there were, it could just as easily kill us as change us back.
Daniel arrived at 6 pm with two buckets of KFC and some sides. Normally, I liked KFC … granted the last time we were there, Sammantha and I were naked, hiding behind some trash dumpsters in St. Thomas.
We greeted Daniel warmly and he was a little surprised by my current ‘state’.
“Derrek, wow, you’re all grown up. You’re beautiful. I wanted to thank you again for helping me face Gottfried when you were eleven.”
“How is it working out?” I asked him.
“Great … I wouldn’t exactly describe him as ‘friendly’, but he hasn’t hesitated getting me back involved with the law work.”
“That’s very good to hear, Daniel,” I replied.
“I assume by your current age, that you passed all of Frumpy’s tests?”
“Thankfully, yes, but those chastity belts were torture. How could you stand being in one for two years?”
“Derrek, when you’re a slave, you don’t have much choice. Let’s just say I had to become creative with toilet paper.”
The four of us took seats around the dining room table and passed out all the drinks, chicken, and sides. Daniel looked across the table at the boy.
“How are things going with you, Sam?” he asked.
“Pretty bad,” he answered nonchalantly. “I’ve decided to become a failure in life. Dad’s going to enroll me in the sixth grade when school starts, so basically, I’ll be a baby again, playing with other babies.”
“Saaaammmm,” Paul warned, pointing a finger at the other side of the table.
Sam continued, “Derrek, the first day I was a boy, I thought I was a real smartass going over to the elementary school without telling you … just so I could play with the other boys at recess and flirt with the girls who gave me this stupid ear stud. Now they’re going to be teasing me because they’re all moving on to seventh grade while I’ll be stuck in sixth.”
Paul pounded a fist on the table. “Sam, if you’re trying to make me out to be the super villain, it’s not working. You brought this all on yourself.”
Sam yelled back, “Derrek and I could make this work out if you’d let us, so YES! … You are being the bad guy!”
What I witnessed next was quite a bit out of character for the Adams family. Paul picked up a scoop of mashed potatoes and flung it across the table into the face of his son while yelling, “All you ever wanted in life was a god damn penis, and now you’ve got one … So deal with it!”
Sam then scooped up a fistful of coleslaw and returned the favor, splattering his father’s face. He screamed, “I AM dealing with it!”
Daniel tried to calm the situation by pointing out, “My, we’re certainly having some cheerful weather in Buffalo today, aren’t we?”
Nobody went storming off. The two combatants just grabbed a few napkins and kept eating.
I commented, “You know, I’m not sure if this dinner reminds me of Jesus’s last supper … or convicts being served up their last meal before execution.”
“Those are certainly some lovely thoughts,” Daniel added.
The meal ended without further incident. Now, the countdown was on and I didn’t want to reveal how nervous I was as the time for the EMP approached. All four of us retired to the den and watched TV … first ‘Wheel of Fortune’, then ‘Jeopardy’, then some cop shows that I had no interest in. They just stressed me out even more.
At 9:45 pm, we moved two lawn chairs into the back yard and faced them north. The eleven-year-old boy, Sam sat in the left chair. I, the adult female, sat in the right. Then we squeezed our hands together … his right with my left. My confidence in this plan working out lay somewhere between zero and none.
Forty minutes passed, and the electricity in our neighborhood was still on. The time of 10:30 pm came and went, and still, nothing happened. The first EMP had occurred at that time.
It was now 10:52 pm, and we were losing whatever hope we did have.
But at 10:53 pm, all the power in the neighborhood went out simultaneously. Sam and I squeezed each other’s hand as tightly as we could.
“Sorry, kids,” Paul uttered.