by: OldStories | Complete Story | Last updated Mar 22, 2016
The Board of Directors of Tauber Industrial Manufacturing has an ace up their sleeve. They have aquired a certain magic vessel and its attendent genie. A properly worded wish and they could dominate the market place for years to come! They just need to get it right, and there's nothing like a committee to get something right.
Chapter Description: By Ingrid Halb.
Reading "A Reluctant Spirit, by Ingrid Halb" is recommended for a full grasp of the story settings, even though all the stories can be read rather independently.
A Reluctant Spirit: The Spirit of Enterprise
By Ingrid Halb
"Gentlemen, I think we’re all in agreement here." Allen Ludecker, CEO, stood at the head of the boardroom table and addressed the assembled brain trust of Tauber Industrial Manufacturing.
The boardroom itself was a typical late 20th century construct with a pressed wood table. The cherry veneer was missing in sections, and the cloth backed plastic and steel chairs had seen better days. The walls were fabric and the view out the windows was of the parking lot. There were many easel boards around the room with multicolor wire diagrams and graphs showing a distinct flat or downward trend.
"There is no way we can afford to pass on this chance. A successful wish could push us into the Fortune 500," Ludecker said, running a hand through his now silver hair. At 56 years of age, he was not the oldest person in the room, but he still felt the pressure of time.
There were murmurs of agreement and much head nodding around the table to Mr. Ludecker’s comments. Still, the enthusiasm was not universal.
"You’re talking about a lot of risk here, Allen," Paul Martens, Chief Financial Officer, spoke out. Martens was the oldest person in the room, but still held a vibrant and commanding presence.
"What about what happened at R&D?" he asked.
"We all know what happened at R&D," Ludecker replied tersely.
"Johnson was careless and nowhere near specific enough in the wish parameters. In hindsight, wishing to come together and perform as a team left too much open for interpretation. We’ve learned from that mistake."
Ludecker’s calm repetition of the accepted explanation did much to reassure the room.
"On the plus side, having our own precision dance team has been a great advertising gimmick," Derrick Brooks, Marketing, chimed in. "And the girls make great spokes models!" He was one of the younger men in the room and tended towards pudginess. He could usually be counted on to put a positive spin on any situation, but this time he only reminded everyone of the transformation that had befallen their five-man research team.
There was an uneasy stirring in the room. Ludecker winced; he did not want the others reminded of things that could go wrong.
"More importantly," he said interrupting the brooding, "it is a clear proof of concept. The power in the vessel will allow us to change reality itself. We can push this company over the top! There is no limit but our imagination! Now, is there anyone here suggesting we do not go ahead with this?"
The room remained quiet. There were a few clenched jaws and some general avoidance of eye contact.
"I have a concern," said Kevin Turner, head of the Legal Department. He was a dark-haired athletic man in his late forties, always very well groomed and usually wearing an expensive suit. "Two concerns, really. I’m concerned about lawsuits from any unintentional transformee as well as any possible government litigation for unfair business practices."
The legalistic caution irritated Ludecker. He did not get where he was by being cautious. But he did not get where he was by being stupid either.
"How about it, Michael?" he said, turning to the Head of Human Resources. "Have any members of our new dance team made any complaints that sound like they may want to sue?"
Michael Peters wrung his hands as he spoke. His receding hairline and bony body shape made him look older than half the room in spite of being younger than most of them.
"All of them," he said. "They all claim they’re being compelled to dance, even though we’ve offered them new positions in the company and generous compensation packages."
"So they can sue us?"
Peters snorted derisively before answering. Social niceties were not his strong suit.
"They can try!" he said. "But every record we have says they’re doing exactly the job they signed on for. Their background checks and tax forms all say they are a troupe of professional dancers. Even their birth certificates say they were all born female between 19 and 23 years ago."
"I’m a little concerned by the ease with which our records were breached," said Norman Willows, Chief Information Officer. Willows was the youngest man in the room. His technical expertise allowed him to get away with keeping his hair shaggier and not wearing a tie. "That wish passed through my best firewall."
"My point exactly," Turner added. "If we can’t keep our records secure then we need to make sure that any wish we agree upon cannot be construed as an unfair trade practice."
"What do you suggest?" Ludecker asked.
"That we delete all reference to actual competitors’ names and we reword the wish to emphasize the opportunity for us to dominate the market rather than an automatic supremacy. We can then argue the maintenance of competition. I have here a recommended verbiage that should keep us clear of any liability should this wish become public."
"I like it," Ludecker said, reading the handout Turner had passed around. "I move we accept Mr. Turner’s revisions to our wish parameters. Do I have a second?"
"Second!" said Willows.
"Gentlemen, please vote your shares. All those in favor? Opposed? Motion carried," Martens said, counting the raised hands. There was not one dissenting vote.
"Then we are all agreed," Ludecker said, before leaning forward to speak into the intercom on the table. "Lisa, would you bring in the vessel, please."
"Right away, sir," was the electronic response.
A short moment later the door to the boardroom opened and Lisa Vincent, Mr. Ludecker’s personal secretary, entered carrying the vessel. She was young, maybe 23 years of age, with auburn hair that framed a very pretty face. She wore a very professional jacket and skirt suit that seemed to emphasize her lithe figure and long legs.
Most of the eyes in the room focused on what she carried. It was the vessel!
"Will there be anything else, Mr. Ludecker?" she said, placing the vessel on the table in front of the CEO.
"That’s it for now, Lisa. Thank you."
Once she left the room again, Ludecker wasted little time in summoning the 3-foot tall guardian of the vessel.
"Not you idiots again!" the little man said, standing on the boardroom table where he had appeared. "Didn’t you learn anything the last time?"
"We believe we’ve made the necessary changes," Martens said, bristling at the insult.
"Paul," Ludecker said, gesturing for the CFO to calm down, before
turning his attention to the little man.
"Hello again," he said. "I see you haven’t lost your charm."
"And I see you still think you can use a committee to make magical wishes!" the little man said, rolling his eyes.
"Enough!" Ludecker said. "I think you’ll find that we meet the requirements to enact a wish. This ’committee’ as you call it, owns your vessel. We are acting as a single entity, we are all present, and we are all in agreement."
The little man looked at the assemblage of executives seated around him. The look on his face suggested he was seeing something distasteful.
"Are you now? Are you really?" he said, looking at each man in turn.
"You’re all prepared to have your lives turned upside down?"
Some of the men averted his gaze while others looked firm. None said a word. The little man just shook his head sadly.
"We are," Ludecker answered. "Mr. Turner, please read the wish."
"Yes, sir," Turner said, rising formally because it seemed the thing to do and started reading the prepared statement.
"We the assembled senior staff and shareholders of Tauber Industrial Manufacturing, henceforth to be referred to as the wishing party, having been previously determined as the sole legal and true owners of one magical vessel and being in full agreement as determined by majority vote of shares and agreement to abide by the same, declare the following wish;
That all members of the wishing party, as defined, will be reassigned to comparable positions in a multinational organization with high public name recognition. Said organization to present unlimited sales opportunities without current competitors, be of high moral and legal standing. All sales advantages, implied or otherwise stated, to remain in effect until such time as the wishing party achieves status as sales leader in the field."
"Lawyers, always pushing the limits on qualifiers," the little man said, rolling his eyes. "Anyway, as you wish."
Ludecker stood smiling. All of his plans were coming into fruition. Soon he would be the leader of a multinational organization. The little man stood, grimly paying attention to the flow of magical lines around them. The rest of the people in the room fidgeted nervously.
A ripple seemed to pass through the room, causing the people inside to shudder and exclaim in surprise. The boardroom around them shimmered and slowly began to fade into nothingness. The assembled executives had to stand as their chairs vanished and they began to mill around the grey nothingness.
That is except for Allen Ludecker who stood confidently beside the little man and Paul Martens who paid close attention to his
surroundings, but also kept a wary eye on Ludecker and the little man. The little man only paid attention to the surrounding lines of magic.
Eventually shapes began to emerge out of the ether. What emerged was the shape of a large room with tile flooring, fluorescent lighting on a dropped ceiling, long folding tables and cheap hard-backed chairs.
"Not exactly Fortune 500, Allen," Martens said.
"I don’t understand," Ludecker said, genuinely puzzled. "What is this place?"
"I don’t know, yet," the little man replied. "Things are very unsettled right now."
"It looks like some kind of community center," Peters said, squinting at a collection of children’s drawings and macaroni sculptures displayed on the walls.
"I’m sure there’s some opportunity here," Kevin Turner replied staring at a banner that read ’Do a Good Turn Daily’.
"I don’t know, this doesn’t seem right," Norman Willows added, staring at the crepe paper and round tipped scissors lying on one of the tables.
Further discussion was cut off as a sharp ripple bounced through the room between the executives; making each shake in turn.
"Unnngh! No... this is good..." Ludecker said, trying to catch his breath. "That’s just the ripple effect R&D described. The magic is still adjusting things. I’m sure our surroundings will become more appropriate in just a while."
"Oh, it’ll be appropriate all right," the little man said, as the room around them continued to solidify into reality.
"Hey, is the room getting bigger?" Peters asked, taking a step back from the wall.
"See, I told you. The room’s still adjusting, tell them," Ludecker said, urging the little man.
"I’m afraid the room’s quite stable," the little man said. "It’s you six who are adjusting."
"What do you mean, ’we’re’ the ones who are adjusting?" Martens asked, looking directly at the little man.
The little man’s response was delayed a moment as another ripple passed through each of the executives from head to toe, leaving them all visibly shaken and their clothes slightly blurry.
"It’s quite simple really," the little man said. "The magic has finished shaping this reality to match the wish parameters and now it is fitting you into this reality."
"How the hell is this the headquarters of a multinational corporation?" Peters demanded.
"What’s happening to my clothes?!!" Derrick Brooks shouted.
All eyes in the room turned to look at the head of Marketing where they stayed transfixed at the sight of Brooks’ clothes shifting around the husky executive’s body. The most obviously visible change was that Brooks’ suit jacket had turned a jade green color while his pants had turned a khaki color. More importantly, both were noticeably shrinking up on him and in short order it looked like Brooks was wearing a white shirt with jade green vest and khaki shorts. His tie parted out into a dozen multicolored patches that migrated to his vest.
Brooks’ clothes were still changing when Peters called out in alarm. His clothes were undergoing similar changes, except instead of a vest, his jacket had transformed into a jade green sash. It also became apparent that he was now wearing a khaki skirt and knee socks that matched the color of his sash.
"Oh my god! It’s R&D all over again!" he cried out as his tie too broke up into a series of patches that moved to his sash. "I don’t want to be a dancer!"
The remaining men stared in horror as Kevin Turner’s clothes became the next to start to change. In due course, he was similarly wearing a green sash, but in his case, he now wore a pair of khaki capris pants.
Ludecker was on the edge of panic when he felt his own clothes start to shift. The overall feeling was of a crawling sensation on his body, accompanied by an uncomfortable shift to his underwear. There was a general lightening of the fabric of his clothes, accompanied by a shortening of his sleeves and pant legs. Ludecker shivered involuntarily as fresh air was able to touch his newly exposed limbs.
His suit jacket had long since lost its sleeves, collar, and buttons and was settling down as a green vest over a now white shirt with elbow length sleeves. His tie broke up like a jigsaw puzzle as the multicolor badges slid over to populate his vest.
Looking down, he was surprised to see that he wore a pair of low sneakers with ankle-length socks. He was at first relieved to see his pants settle down into what looked like a pair of khaki shorts, hoping that he might escape the fate that had befallen the R&D team. A last second surge of magic caused an extra flap of material to wrap around the front of his shorts and button along the side.
"Skorts?" he said looking down at the faux skirt he was wearing.
"Allen!" Martens shouted. "I think we have a problem here."
Ludecker looked up to see his Chief Financial Officer wearing a khaki skirt and crisp white blouse with a patch over the left breast. Like him, Martens was wearing a green vest bestrewn with badges. Unlike him, Martens was wearing pale green leggings and shiny black leather shoes. The shoes had a slight block heel and a broad strap across the ankle. Low sided with a closed toe and closed heel, they looked like a child’s shoes, a girl child.
"Uh, guys," Willows said, drawing everyone’s attention. "Tell me this doesn’t say what I think it says."
Unlike the others, Willows was not wearing a sash or a vest. What he was wearing was a faded pair of blue jeans with pink piping. The jeans ended a good six inches above his ankles and gave a good view of his open-toed sandals and pink painted toenails. But what Willows was referring to and what really drew the eye was the green t-shirt he wore.
Emblazoned with the stylized image of three women in profile it also bore a legend, which read ’Girl Scouts of America® Where Girls Grow Strong’.
"GIRL SCOUTS!!" Martens shouted. "We’re becoming Girl Scouts?"
"No, no, no!" Ludecker said, shaking his head. "That does not match the wish parameters."
"I’m afraid it does," the little man said. "You wished for positions
in a multinational organization with high public name recognition, high moral and legal standing. What else is there?"
"Well, how about BOY Scouts for one?" Martens asked.
"Hmmm," the little man said, studying the magical lines closely for a while. "I think it may have been that clause about unlimited sales opportunities without competitors."
"That’s ridiculous!" Ludecker said. "What sort of sales opportunities do Girl Scouts have?"
Ludecker and Martens looked up at each other with a flash of mutual realization.
"Cookies!" they shouted simultaneously.
Just then another ripple shot through the room, bouncing repeatedly between the six cross-dressed executives. Each shuddered noticeably under the influence of the magic.
"It does seem to be cookies," the little man said, nodding in calm agreement.
Ludecker, distracted by the changes going on to his body, was unable to respond immediately to the little man. It seemed like strength was leaving his body. His hands and arms looked small and thin and it looked like there were some chipped remnants of polish on his nails.
He was shocked, briefly, by the look of his legs poking out from his faux skirt. They were far too thin and very smooth in their near hairlessness. He shook his head as if to clear out the sight and felt hair sweep against his neck and shoulders.
Looking up at his comrades, Ludecker saw that they were all undergoing similar transformations. Derrick Brooks, as the first to start transforming was the furthest along. Brooks was getting visibly younger and chubbier looking before his eyes. He already looked more like a girl than a man, a short chubby girl with thick glasses and long brown hair that hung well past his shoulders.
Michael Peters was not far behind. The tall gangly redhead was still gangly and tall, if only relative to the reduced height of his
compatriots. More importantly, he now sported a very thick shoulder- length head of hair and noticeable pointy breasts only partially covered by his sash.
Further observations were cut short by another ripple and a particularly gut-wrenching shudder. A quick grasp at her crotch revealed to ’Allen’ that something important had changed in her life.
"Girl scouts," she gasped. "The wish made us a Girl Scout Troop."
"Junior Girl Scout Troop," the little man clarified.
"Junior?" the former Kevin Turner, legal counsel of Tauber Industrial Machine asked. She may have looked like a typical grade school girl, but she was paying close attention to the exact words the little man was using.
"Yes, my dear," the little man said smiling. "You are all between ten and eleven years old now. Except for Nancy. She’s only nine, but she did skip a grade."
"Nine and a half!" the former Norman Willows automatically responded.
"Nancy?" the former lawyer asked.
"Well, she’s not a Norman anymore," the little man lectured. "Each of you has been given identities appropriate to this reality and part of that includes your new name. If you think about it, your name will come to you."
It’s Alice, the former Allen Ludecker thought with a start. Her name was Alice Larkin and Paul Martens was now Patricia Miller. In fact, all of the girls’ names came to her as she looked around the room.
Derrick Brooks was now Denise Brown, Kevin Turner was now Kelly Taylor, Michael Peters was now Marsha Patterson, and Norman Willows was now Nancy Walters.
"Does this mean I’m not me anymore?" Patricia asked. The former Chief Financial Officer casually brushed a strand of long blond hair behind her ear.
"No, you’re still you," the little man said, continuing in lecture mode. "Your memories are intact, just supplemented to help you fit in to this reality. Of course the bodies you’re in now will start to affect your personalities."
"You mean hormones?" Alice asked, an obvious sense of dread in her voice.
"Not just hormones," the little man went on, oblivious to the growing looks of horror on the girls’ faces. "The fact that both you and Patricia are blondes will make some people take you less seriously. Denise being short and overweight will have a definite impact on her social life. And Marsha, Marsha is clearly going to become self- conscious from all the attention she gets from her early breast development."
Marsha made an ’eep’ noise and folded her arms across her chest, looking down at the floor in embarrassment as she turned bright red. Alice pulled a lock of her hair into view. It was very blond and very curly.
"Puberty is going to be very different for all of you this time around," the little man went on, "and your experiences can’t help but shape your personalities as you mature into young ladies."
"But we don’t have to mature!" Kelly blurted out. "I mean, we don’t have to stay this way. We just have to become sales leaders and we’ll meet the time reference!"
"That’s right!" Alice shouted, then calmed down and spoke more softly. "All we have to do is sell more cookies than anyone else and we can make another wish."
"Yeah, good luck with that," the little man said, a slight chuckle in his voice. "You know there’s over 200,000 Girl Scout Troops in this country, do you think you can out sell them all?"
"We can try!" Denise said with a note of desperation in her voice. "We’re a great team and I’m a great salesman, I mean sales... person."
The little man just smiled.
"In any case, I have to be going now," he said. "I’ve actually stayed a lot longer than I should. Your adult Troop Volunteer will be coming through that door in just a moment and I had better not be here when she does. So, goodbye and good luck with your sales drive. Who knows? Maybe I will see you again."
"Our adult what?" Alice asked, but the little man was already gone.
The girls looked around the room at each other, nobody knowing what to say. They were not given much time to think before the door opened and Lisa Vincent walked in.
"Okay, girls," Lisa said. "I’ve got the glue and pencils. We can start making our autograph books! And while we’re doing that I want you to start thinking about the poem you’re going to write to yourself."
Alice was unnerved at the sight of her former secretary now towering over her by at least a foot in height.
"Um, Ms. Vincent?" she said, trying to get the adult’s attention. "When can we sell cookies again?"
"That was fun, wasn’t it?" Lisa said, smiling at the young girl. "But Alice, you know we only sell cookies once a year. Don’t worry, we’ll have lots of fun. There’s still our horseback riding camp and our trip to the water park and all kinds of things coming up! You’ll see, the year will fly by and before you know it, it will be cookie season again."
The words hit Alice like a physical blow.
"Yeah, I can’t wait," she said, forcing a smile.
_____ o _____
"Hello, girls," the little man said, genuinely surprised at seeing the Troop again.
"Hello," the girls replied politely in unison. They were back in the community center that served as their meeting place and all were wearing the typical uniform of a Girl Scout; white shirt paired with khaki bottom and a green sash or vest. This time even Nancy was in uniform, although she had only a very few badges on her sash.
"I hadn’t expected to see you again," the little man said. "How did you manage to lead the country in cookie sales?"
"We didn’t," Patricia said.
"Then how did you meet the time reference?" he asked.
"It was Kelly’s idea," Alice said.
"It was simple, really," Kelly said, beaming. "The time reference of the wish had us stuck until we were sales leaders. It didn’t specify that we had to be national sales leaders. So, you’re looking at the regional sales leaders at the Junior level."
"Clever," the little man said. "But that’s still a lot of cookies."
"It was mostly Denise and Nancy," Alice said.
"Ah, all I did was organize the sales booths," Denise said. "It was Nancy that put the word out."
"I was going to set up an internet sales site," Nancy said. "But Kelly pointed out that was against the rules."
"It was a team effort," Patricia added.
"Impressive," the little man said, and he meant it. The girls seemed much more cohesive and capable than they ever had as executives. He hoped it meant they were becoming satisfied with their transformation and would be avoiding further wishes. The fact that they had called him back dampened that hope.
"It sounds like Scouting has done you well," he said, trying to remind the group of some of the positive events over the last year. "What were some of the activities? Were any of them fun?"
The girls shuffled their feet and avoided making direct eye contact with each other.
"Well, there was the camping trip," Alice finally said. "That was kind of fun."
"And I liked the horses," Denise said shyly.
"How about when we got to tour the State Senate building, that was pretty cool!" Kelly said.
"The recycling program we set up, I liked that," Patricia added, nodding seriously.
"And I just liked hanging with you guys," Nancy said.
The little man was encouraged. These all sounded like positive experiences showing adaptation to their current situation.
"Well then," the little man said, trying to broach what he wanted to say as delicately as possible. "Might I suggest you leave well enough alone and not make any more wishes? You seem to be adapting to how you are."
"NO!!!" Marsha shouted, making everyone in the room jump. "No, I can’t do this anymore! I can’t go on being a girl. People keep looking at me and it’s starting to make me feel funny. I... I don’t look at boys the same way anymore. You have to make it stop!"
"She started getting her period a few months ago," Nancy confided to the little man.
"You shut up!" Marsha snapped at Nancy.
"At least people look at you," Denise said. "I’m freaking invisible."
Like Marsha, Denise already had some significant breast development but it was uncertain how much was due to her being overweight.
"Okay, everybody calm down," Alice said, fidgeting with her training bra. Her own breasts had definitely started to bud over the last year and the idea of starting her period scared the heck out of her.
"We all agreed there’d be another wish," she said. "And we worked hard to make that happen. Let’s not start fighting amongst ourselves now."
"So there is to be another wish," the little man said in obvious disappointment. "I take it you are all in agreement?"
"Oh there’s going to be another wish alright," Patricia said, "but we’re far from agreement."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"What Patty’s trying to say," Alice explained, "is that we all agree there should be another wish. There’s just some disagreement on the exact wording."
"Oh," he said, thinking fast. Any disagreement was worth trying to exploit. If the girls were not in agreement, there could be no wish.
"What sort of disagreement?"
"Well we all know that we can’t just wish to be men again. That would be a direct reverse of a wish aspect and wouldn’t be stable," Alice started.
"But we can wish to be put in a situation where it’s likely for us to be men!" Patricia finished.
"And I think that most likely if we wish to be the government," Alice said.
"While I think we should be bankers," Patricia replied.
"You do realize," the little man said, "that neither of those jobs are exclusively male occupations."
"Well duh," Nancy said.
"Shh, Nance, be nice," Alice said, chiding the younger girl.
"We know that," she said once again addressing the little man, "but we’re all willing to take a chance that most of us will be men again. After that, we’ll see."
"I think you might wind up seeing a few things you don’t want to see," the little man said by way of warning.
"I agree, about Alice’s wish anyway," Patricia said, "but we did have a vote and Alice won."
"Then you’re all in agreement after all?" the little man asked.
"Well I was neutral on the whole issue," Denise said. If anything, she had gained weight over the last year and was eating from a box of cookies as she spoke. "Marsha was the only one who really backed Patty’s banker idea."
"It’s a great idea," Patricia said with a hint of irritation.
"I just want this all to end," Marsha said, fiddling with one of her earrings. She was much calmer than her earlier outburst but still
quite distraught. The preceding year had been generous with Marsha and it was clear that she was going to be a well endowed as she matured.
"Anyway," Alice said, "I think we can move on with the wishing. We all agreed to vote on it and my idea won. Kelly, you can read the wish now, please."
Kelly stood up and straightened the front of her clothes before taking out a much-folded piece of paper. Holding it in front of her with both hands, she started to read.
"We the Girl Scouts of Troop 1723, wish to be legitimately elected leaders of the Government with Alice as President and we’re all grown up, but as young as possible to legally hold our jobs. And we want this to start right now," she read.
"As you wish," the little man intoned solemnly, shaking his head sadly.
"It was my idea about keeping us young as possible," Alice said proudly. "None of us wanted to wind up as some doddering old Senator or Congressman."
"I think we can safely rule that out," the little man said with and edge of sarcasm to his voice.
"Well, who wants to be that old anyway? That would be gross," Alice said, flipping her hair back.
The little man looked askance at Alice before resuming his attention to the flow of magical lines around the room, which was starting to shimmer and fade from view. What emerged from the grey nothingness was a long wide hallway with windowed doorways evenly spaced down both sides.
"What kind of place is this?" Nancy said, stepping up on tiptoes to try to look inside one of the rooms.
"Maybe these are the hallways of power," Denise said hopefully, this earned a disdainful glance from Patricia and Kelly. Even Alice rolled her eyes.
"It’s going wrong again, isn’t it?" Marsha said, an edge of panic building in her voice.
"It’s not going wrong, just calm down," Alice said, rapidly looking around the hallway for some sort of explanation. "Okay, what’s happening?" she finally asked the little man.
"I don’t know," he answered with a shrug. "But so far all the indicators are for a relatively minor shift in reality."
"That’s ridiculous!" Alice said. "How can a minor shift of reality make me the President of the United States?"
"This is a school, isn’t it?" Patricia said, staring at the rows of lockers that were appearing in the halls.
Any response from the little man was interrupted by a shallow, fast- moving ripple that shot down the hallway, washing over and through the girls.
"Eeew! I hate that feeling," Nancy said, several of the girls nodded in agreement.
"Guys, I think something’s starting over here," Denise said with a nervous edge in her voice.
Denise’s clothes were indeed starting to shift over her body. The most readily apparent change was that Denise’s green vest had seemed to merge onto her shirt and started to rearrange into a shape on her chest in the form of a green cartoon dragon wrapped around the letter ’G’. Her loose khaki shorts seemed to merge with her shirt before turning green with a white hem. The green color shot up each side of her shirt and over the shoulders, leaving her chest white with the green dragon.
The pant legs rose up her chubby legs before transforming into the skirt portion of a one-piece outfit. It was soon obvious that the short fat girl stood there wearing a cheerleader’s outfit.
"My glasses!" Denise squeaked. "Where’s my glasses? C’mon guys, you know I can’t see anything with my glasses!"
Denise’s glasses had indeed disappeared, but everyone else’s attention was now on what was happening to Marsha. The gangly redhead’s white shirt turned pitch black and began to shrink and tighten up on her chest. Riding up to expose her stomach, it settled down just below her developing bust line and seemed to blossom into a pair of lacy oversized cups and thin straps over her shoulder. The green sash kept its color, but seemed to melt and spread over her upper chest, eventually becoming a tank tee with one droop shoulder that left much of her bra and all of her belly exposed. Her khaki skirt shrank and settled lower on her hips while her white socks raced up her legs. Both changed color and texture before revealing themselves as a black micro-mini leather skirt and lemon-yellow leggings.
"What’s happening to me?!" she cried, tottering on the black shiny stiletto heels she now wore and reaching up to touch the large hoop earrings that had appeared on her ears. The overall look was quite sluttish and highly inappropriate on a twelve-year old body, no matter how well developed.
Kelly’s clothes were next to change, but were much more conservative in style. The former suave dark-haired lawyer and current reader of wishes found herself wearing a simple navy blouse and straight cut jeans with deck shoes. She was surprised by the appearance of thick glasses on her face.
"Wait! What’s happening here?" Alice said as her own clothes started to change. She watched in horror as her clothes shifted into an exact match of Denise’s cheerleader outfit.
"So much for a cabinet post," Patricia said, brushing her straight blond hair back. Her Girl Scout uniform had also transformed and she was now wearing a dark pink skirt and white camisole with pink edging.
She had a white cardigan draped and tied off over her shoulders and her nylons had a slight pink tinge, which went well with the off-white pumps with the low heels that had appeared on her feet.
The little man looked around and nodded in understanding. The school hallway held five little girls who were dressed in varied but more mature styles than one would expect.
"Hey, where’s Nancy?" Kelly asked, lifting the glasses up and looking around.
"She... she just sort of vanished," Marsha said. "Her clothes started to change into a t-shirt and a pair of jeans then she... she just kind of... evaporated."
"Okay, little man," Alice said, turning to address him, "what did you do with Nancy?"
"Yeah! Where is she?" Patricia added.
"First off, I didn’t do anything," the little man said. "And secondly, she’s fine. She’s just been relocated."
"Relocated where?" Kelly asked before being interrupted by a relatively minor ripple that passed through the hallway and all five girls.
"Franklin Middle School," the little man answered without missing a beat.
"Franklin Mid... Wait a minute!" Alice said. "We already go to Franklin Middle School! Well, Patty, Kelly and I do. We just started this year. Nancy’s still back at Edison Elementary with Denise and Marsha. Are you saying Nancy got older?"
"Guys," Denise said.
"That’s exactly what I’m saying," the little man said, answering Alice’s question. "In this reality, Nancy is being inserted as an eighth grade student at Franklin Middle School."
"Eighth grade?" Patricia said. "Nancy’s older than us now?"
"Guys!" Denise said again.
"No, each of you has been aged approximately five years," the little man said.
"Five years?" Alice said. "Then that would make this..."
"Gardner Valley High," Kelly said reading off a banner that proclaimed the fall dance.
"Nice wishing, Alice," Patricia said. "You got us all the way from middle school to high school."
Denise was finally able to get everyone’s attention. They turned to see that not only had Denise gotten taller and considerably thinner, she was also starting to fill out her cheerleader uniform in a much more mature fashion.
"Hey! I can see now!" she said.
"Denise!" Patricia said. "Look at you! You’re beautiful."
"Stop it, no I’m not."
"Seriously, you look like sixteen or something," Kelly said.
"Oh my God! It’s happening to me now!" Marsha said, fear in her voice.
The girls turned as one and watched in fascination, as Marsha seemed to grow up and out. The precocious redhead soon more than filled out her tight skirt and shirt, going from wildly inappropriate to wildly alluring in a matter of moments.
"No... I... I... Oh! No! No... Oooo..." Marsha’s conversation skills failed her.
Alice stared in shock at Marsha’s transformation. The former gangly redhead now sported an amazing figure with breasts that strained the tight shirt she wore. Alice watched with morbid fascination as bold makeup and lipstick appeared on Marsha’s face.
"Hic," Kelly hiccupped loudly and continued to hiccup, drawing everyone’s attention. It was soon obvious that these were not natural hiccups as each brought on a small growth spurt. Like Marsha, Kelly soon began to take on the more mature look of a teenager. Unlike Marsha, Kelly was developing some very average looking curves. To be generous, she was plain looking and her figure was not flattered by the dark blue blouse and straight cut jeans.
"Hey, there’s something wrong. I can see now," Kelly said touching the thick glasses on her face. "I mean I can’t see. I mean... these glasses, they work now."
Kelly was experimenting with lifting the thick rimmed glasses up and down, squinting hard to focus when the lenses were not in place.
Alice was too distracted by the changes starting on her own body to be overly concerned about what was happening to the others. She was startled to see how her hips flared out before gently curving back to soft-skinned thighs. Over the past year, she had gotten used to the skinny stick-like legs of a preteen. She ran her hands in amazement across her smooth now sexy legs, only interrupted by the slow but steady expansion of her chest.
"Eek!" she managed to say, overwhelmed by a host of newfound sensitivities.
"Once again, real nice wishing, Abby," Patricia said.
Alice looked up to see Patricia, no... Penelope, Penelope Michaels, standing off to one side with a disdainful look in her eyes. The tall thin teenager with shoulder length straight blond hair was dressed in a tailored skirt and jacket suit. She looked very prep and could have easily fit in at any Youth Business League meeting.
Alice’s mind was reeling under the shifting realities and she was desperately trying to remember basic facts. The names Alice Larkin and Allen Ludecker were bouncing around in her head as were the concepts of Girl Scout and Chief Executive Officer. She struggled to hold on to these, but what settled down instead was the name Abigail Lefler, high school cheerleader.
"I don’t understand," Abigail said, turning her attention to the little man. "How did we wind up here?"
"It wasn’t clever wordplay," Penelope said in a snarky voice.
"Quiet you," Abigail snapped before turning back to address the little man. "How the heck does this fit the wish parameters?"
"Quite elegantly, I think," the little man said with a little shrug. "You wished for a minimum legal age for public office and I believe you have it."
"You’re telling me that the President of the United States is a 17-year old girl?" Abigail said in disbelief.
"Well, no. That would be silly," the little man answered.
"Don’t you get it, Abby?" Penelope said. "You’re not the President of the United States; you’re the president of the student council."
"What!" Abigail shouted.
"That’s right, isn’t it?" Penelope said to the little man. "She’s the president and we’re all part of the student council."
"You will be, providing you work at it," the little man said.
"What do you mean by that?" the former Kelly asked, trying to find the least uncomfortable position for her unfamiliar glasses.
Karen, thought Abigail. She is Karen Tanner now, and Denise is Deborah Baker. She shook her head as the new identities settled into place.
"Quite simply that since you wished to be the legitimately elected government, it follows that you will have to go through with an election," the little man said.
"You’re saying we have to campaign," Penelope said.
"And win," the little man pointed out. "Although I am 90% sure that the magic will assist, you still have to earn enough votes to be legitimately elected."
"Okay, so we have to go through with an election," Abigail said. "That doesn’t explain why Nancy is at another school or why I can’t think of her new name."
"Ah! The simple answer is that you don’t know her yet," the little man said. "She should become apparent to you in time to run for next year’s freshman representative."
"Next year?" Karen asked.
"A side effect of your time reference, I’m afraid," the little man said. "You asked for the wish to start ’right now’ and it was already October. Student elections were done for this year."
"Wait, is he saying we have to be girls for another whole year?" the former Marsha, now Melanie Potter asked.
"Yes, yes he is," Karen said.
"I’m afraid so," the little man said by way of confirmation, "and then only if you succeed in winning next year’s election. Otherwise, this reality may peter off into a permanently unfulfilled wish. In any case, I should be saying goodbye. In just a short while, the class bell is going to go off and you will have ten minutes to find your next class. Good luck in the election."
"No, wait!" Abigail shouted, but the little man was already gone.
Five teenage girls stared at each other in the empty hallway for a moment before the class bell went off. What followed was the chaotic flow of dozens of classrooms of students emptying into the hallways.
The crush of bodies and raucous conversations buffeted the girls up against the lockers. The swirl began to ebb to a trickle, leaving five stunned girls in its wake.
"Girls," Lisa Vincent said as she walked up to the group. "What are you doing? You’re going to be late for class."
"Yes, Ms. Vincent," the girls answered in scattered unison. Each of them recognized the former secretary/troop leader as their civics teacher and faculty advisor.
"Well hurry on then," Ms. Vincent said. "You don’t want to get in
trouble, do you?"
"No, Ms. Vincent," they said, and hurried off in different directions to meet their next class.
_____ o _____
"Hello girls," the little man said, moderately impressed that the former executives had managed to pull together enough teamwork to win the election.
They were in a classroom, presumably at the high school. There were a few scattered signs around that said things like ’Vote for Abby!’ and ’Penelope Michaels for Treasurer’.
The girls all said ’hi’ or ’hey’ in varying ways. There were six of them alone in the room with the little man’s vessel. They were dressed in kind to the last time the little man had seen them. Abigail and Deborah were once again wearing their cheerleader outfits. Penelope had on designer jeans and a silk blouse. Karen was dressed a little differently. She had on a black knee-length skirt and a black shirt that hung loosely on her narrow frame. She also had dyed her hair blacker, and had black lipstick and black nail polish on. Melanie had on short shorts and a very tight t-shirt.
The sixth girl was obviously the youngest. She wore faded jeans and a sweatshirt from Cal Tech with an USB flashdrive on a lanyard around her neck. While cute enough, she had an awkward geekiness about her that screamed nerd.
"I see you found Nancy," the little man said.
"Natalie now," Abigail said, "Natalie Webster, freshman rep."
"Hiya," Natalie said, sheepishly waving.
"Natalie," the little man nodded, acknowledging the correction. "Since all of you are gathered together here, I assume the election went well."
"It was awesome!" Deborah said. "I’m the new junior rep! And Abby’s President! And Penny’s Treasurer and Karen’s Vice President and Natalie’s the freshman rep! Oh, and Melanie is the sophomore rep!"
"Debbie, chill," Penelope said.
"She gets a little excited," Abigail explained to the little man.
"I can see that," the little man said with great optimism. "So I gather I am now addressing the new governing student council of Gardner Valley High."
"You are," Abigail said with a nod.
"For now," Penelope added.
The little man’s hopes dimmed. It was clear that not everyone was as enthusiastic as Deborah was about the current situation.
"Then there is to be another wish," he said half question, half resignation.
"There is," Abigail agreed.
"Well I don’t know why we can’t just stay the way we are," Deborah said with a pout.
This brightened the little man’s outlook.
"Debbie, we’ve gone over this," Abigail said.
"But I’m skinny and popular now! I’ve always been the fat kid. I’ve never been skinny and popular before!" Deborah said with a distinct whine in her voice. "Besides, I was going to be the head cheerleader next year when Abby graduates."
"Get over it," Karen snapped. Her gaze looked even angrier when magnified through her glasses. "We all voted and you lost."
"Yeah well, I agree with Debbie," Melanie said checking her makeup in a compact mirror. "I’m having fun just the way we are."
"Yeah, we know the kind of fun you’ve been having, with half the boys in school," Karen said rolling her eyes.
"At least I can find a boyfriend," Melanie shot back. "And I don’t do it by going around dressed like some Goth vampire wannabe."
"No, you do it by going around not dressed at all!"
"Girls," Abigail said. "Stop fighting. We went over all this. All of us own the vessel together and majority rules. We all voted so there is going to be another wish."
The little man sighed.
"So, Abigail," he said, "I suppose you have another one of your well thought out wishes ready to go."
"Not exactly," Abigail said, wincing at the reminder.
"I was outvoted."
"Yeah, we’re going to try it my way this time," Penelope said with a haughty air of triumph.
"Sorry Abby," Natalie said. "I just think we should give Penny a
"She can’t do worse than this suck school full of fakes and assholes," Karen muttered.
Most of the girls just rolled their eyes at Karen’s rant.
"How the heck did she get elected?" Melanie said to no one in particular.
"Bite me!" Karen replied.
"Whatever, you two," Penelope said. "Just read the wish, and don’t change any of the words."
Karen grumbled something unintelligible and pulled out a crumpled piece of paper that she smoothed out on a desktop and held up to read.
"We, the legitimately elected representatives of the Gardner Valley High student council, make the following wish. That all of us are to be installed as full partners in a financial institution with the qualifiers of a stable foundation and high growth potential. This situation is to begin immediately and will remain in effect until changed by majority vote of the current owners of the vessel."
"As you wish," the little man intoned solemnly.
"Now that’s how you make a wish!" Penelope said smugly.
Abigail just stood there with arms crossed, lips pressed firmly together, biting her tongue.
In due course, the walls and desks of the classroom shimmered and faded from view. The girls were mostly unconcerned, except that Deborah and Melanie looked wistful. Eventually a ripple passed through the empty space and all the girls.
"I’ll be glad to see the end of those stupid ripples!" Penelope said, shaking off the shudder.
"They do feel creepy, don’t they," Abigail said, shaking off her own reaction.
"Uh, guys," Deborah said, "is it just me or is this new area kind of... narrow?"
The walls that were forming around them did seem to be narrow and moderately long, maybe 15 feet wide and another 50 or 60 feet long.
"Well this doesn’t look good. Not so easy is it?" Abigail said, with maybe a slight smirk on her face.
"I’m not... I mean we don’t..." Penelope was struggling to come up with something to say. "Well, we don’t know what this is yet. It could be an office."
"Are you kidding?" Abigail said. "This is a television set over here, and that’s definitely starting to look like a kitchen."
Abigail was gesturing at the shapes appearing around them as she spoke. It did look like they were in some sort of family room or television room connected to an open kitchen. The walls were cheap paneling and the floor was covered with a carpet that had seen better days, even without the stains.
"Why are there toys everywhere?" Karen asked, picking up a soft plush rabbit with floppy ears.
"I think these are bedrooms back here," Natalie said, looking nervously down a narrow hallway.
"It’s going wrong again!" Melanie started to wail.
"Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!" Deborah said, panic building in her voice.
"We don’t know that!" Penelope shot back.
"Oh, come off it!" Abigail said. "This is clearly someone’s home, in fact, it’s a mobile home."
Another sharp powerful ripple shot through the room and the assembled girls, causing each to shudder noticeably.
"Ngah! I hate that," Abigail said, shaking off the feeling. "Anyway, I’m right. This is a trailer isn’t it?"
"Lot 72, at the Rosy Pines Trailer Park to be exact," the little man said in a calm relaxed voice.
"Rosy Pines...? Wait, I know that park!" Natalie said excitedly.
"That’s not far from the Tauber head office. I drive by it... I mean I used to drive by it every day. We’re close to the beginning of this again!"
"That’s ridiculous," Abigail said, rolling her eyes. "Can you see six people living in a place this small?"
"Hey, are you getting bigger?" Penelope asked.
"What? No! Wait... Am I? No! You guys are getting shorter,"
"You are getting taller!" Deborah shouted.
"And we’re getting shorter," Melanie said with a growing sense of dread.
Both statements were true, although Abigail was growing larger at a much slower rate than the other girls were getting smaller. She was already a foot taller than the other five girls and the difference was growing. Looking down on the shrinking group of girls was very disorientating for Abigail. The effect was as if they were falling away from her.
She watched in shocked fascination as the other five girls continued to get smaller. It was not just their size. Their clothes and physical features were changing before her eyes.
They’re getting younger, Abigail thought and it was obvious she was right. All five of her schoolmates looked no older than elementary school girls again and by the look of their clothes were getting younger still.
Penelope had on tan shorts and a yellow t-shirt with the picture of a teddy bear on it. Karen was still clutching the plush toy rabbit but her black ensemble had morphed into a knee-length pink sundress with bunnies on the hem. Deborah and Melanie found themselves wearing diapers with pull-up pants and matching shirts. Natalie was the least dressed, having only an undershirt to go with her diaper.
The physical changes continued after their clothes had stopped morphing. The hair of all five, now very young girls, turned blonde.
There was a slight rearrangement of their facial features as well, giving them all a similar look. And they kept getting younger.
Penelope finally stopped shrinking when she was eye to eye with the little man. She looked the oldest of the group, but appeared to be no more than four years of age. Karen was a few inches shorter and stood there clutching her toy rabbit. Deborah and Melanie were of equal height and a few inches shorter still. They tottered unsteadily, each the exact image of the other. Natalie had regressed the furthest and lay helplessly on her back mewling at the world around her.
Abigail automatically reached down to pick up baby Natalie and cradled her in her arms. She had been too distracted by the changes the others had undergone to notice her own changes. The former head cheerleader had grown while the others had shrunk. She was taller now, not tall, maybe 5’4", still blond, and still good looking at 23 years of age. Her cheerleader outfit had morphed into a tattered pair of stretch pants in the colors of the local university and a comfortable but slightly stained white button-down blouse.
"Okay, what happened?" she asked the little man.
"You got your wish," he said.
"Ha, ha, ha, very funny. Seriously though, where am I, who am I? Who are they?"
"Well, this is your new home and you..." the little man said indicating Abigail, "are Amy Lou Lee. And these are your lovely daughters."
"My what? Oh, that’s just bull crap!" she said. "How does this fit the wish? We wanted to be bankers!"
"But you wished to be part of a financial institution with a stable foundation and opportunity for growth," the little man explained in lecture mode. "Clearly a family qualifies as an institution and it definitely has financial obligations. And the mother-daughter relationship is stable, even if sometimes tumultuous. As for opportunity for growth, by the looks of this trailer I don’t think you have too many places to go but up."
Amy Lou looked around at the trailer. It felt way too familiar, like home. But a mother? She had only barely gotten used to the idea of being a girl and then a teenager. There was no way she could be a mother. Amy Lou looked down and was surprised to see that without thinking she had opened up her shirt and nursing bra and that baby Natalie was now nursing peacefully. No, not Natalie. Naomi. Naomi Winona Lee, her daughter. Memories filled Amy Lou’s mind as she looked down at her baby girl.
"Does she remember?" she asked.
"She does," the little man said. "But she has no way to connect those thoughts with the outside world. After all, she is an infant."
"But she’s still the same person," Amy Lou said.
"Absolutely, they all retain their personal identities," the little man said, indicating the assembled group of girls. "But that won’t last.
Each is going to have to grow up and relearn how to interact with a world that sees them as pretty little blond girls. It can’t help but impact their personalities."
The girls had been following the interaction between Amy Lou and the little man intently. The two oldest had very concerned looks on their faces and both seemed almost on the edge of tears. The twins seemed less concerned and more interested in examining each other. Naomi continued nursing.
Amy Lou stared at her daughters as five years of near constant pregnancy and childbirth settled into her memories. There was the oldest, Phoebe Marie Lee, four years old, and her first. The former Chief Financial Officer and preppy student council treasurer had a brave scowl on her face but her trembling lip betrayed her. Then there was Kaylee Tiara Lee, now almost three. She did not look much like a Goth girl now, even less the dapper legal counsel she had started as.
"Mommy, I’m scared," Kaylee said, clutching at Amy Lou’s leg with one arm while holding on to her rabbit with the other.
"Hush, sweetie, it’ll be alright," Amy Lou said, stroking the little girl’s hair. "I’ll make another wish and things will be different."
"I can make another wish, can’t I?" Amy Lou asked the little man.
"Sure," he said smiling. "Just as soon as you get a majority vote, as per the time constraints of this wish."
"Majority vote..., but I’m the mother," Amy Lou said. "I decide what’s good for the girls!"
The little man shrugged.
"That may meet the legal requirement," he said, "but it does not meet the magical requirement. The time constraint was very specific. This wish will remain in effect until changed by majority vote. And that may take awhile given that three of you don’t even talk yet."
"Don’t worry, Mommy," Phoebe said, tugging on Amy Lou’s shirt. "I vote with you."
"Thank you, Sweetie," Amy Lou said smiling warmly at her eldest. "I appreciate that. How about you, Kaylee? You want to vote with Mommy?"
Kaylee buried her face against Amy Lou’s leg but did nod her assent.
"That’s three votes," Amy Lou said.
"One more and you have a majority," the little man said.
Amy Lou scowled. She was going to need four votes. She looked at the twins. Darla and Marla were laughing and playing with their toys. As Deborah and Melanie, both had enjoyed being high school girls enough to vote not to change. Spending another year or two as twin girls was unlikely to change their minds. That left Naomi.
Amy Lou looked softly at the suckling baby. The feeling was decidedly odd and slightly painful, but it left her a feeling of contentment to be able to nourish the small life using only her own body. The baby on her teat would need another two or maybe three years before she could vote. By then she’ll just think of me as Mommy, Amy Lou thought.
Would she vote to change that? Would I even want that, she asked herself.
In two years, Phoebe would be in grade school. Kaylee would be a year behind her. Eventually all of them would make friends with other girls, play games with other girls, and grow up with other girls. As they grew, they would learn about clothes and makeup and eventually boys. Amy Lou felt the pressure of time and had a strong urge to hold on to this moment when her girls were small and needed her.
"We’re stuck, aren’t we?" she said.
"Most probably," the little man agreed. "And I really should be leaving now. This wish is essentially set."
"So that’s it?" she asked. "I’m stuck a single mother with five kids?"
"Oh, my dear, no!" the little man said. "Why, in just a few more
moments Vincent will be home."
"Vincent? Lisa Vincent?" Amy Lou asked incredulously. "The same Lisa Vincent who was our faculty advisor, volunteer troop leader, and my personal secretary? That Lisa Vincent?"
"Yes, but now she’s Vincent Lee, your husband," the little man explained calmly. "Didn’t you wonder where you last name came from?"
Amy Lou stood stunned into silence. She did remember a wedding, a courthouse ceremony right after high school when she was already pregnant. She also remembered sex, lots and lots of sex. No wonder she was pregnant all the time.
"Anyway, Vincent will be home shortly and I better be leaving," the little man said. "And if I were you, I’d work on my explanation. There’s an excellent chance he remembers being Lisa."
"What?" Amy Lou said. But the little man was already gone.
Outside was the sound of a car pulling up to the trailer and a car door slamming. Amy Lou waited nervously inside wondering what she should say and how much Vincent would remember. Would he be angry? Would he want nothing to do with them? What would he think his place was here?
"Daddy home?" Kaylee asked, looking up at her mother.
"I hope so, sweetie," Amy Lou said, smiling at her daughter. "I hope so."
A.R.S. - The Spirit of Enterprise, by Ingrid Halb
by: OldStories | Complete Story | Last updated Mar 22, 2016