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© 1999

by Tess

"The problem with you, John, is that you're far too gullible."

I looked down at the chess board. I really thought I had him this time. Just play it cool and easy. Be sure to keep his king in check. And - oh yes - watch out for that pawn of his. Briefly I wondered how it felt for the pawn. The lowest of the low, harassed and pushed around by everybody. Struggling over the board, step by step. And then "Congratulations, boy, you're a queen now. The strongest gal in the game." He - she - beat the hell out of me at least.

"I still can't figure out how you did it, I said."

"It's really easy," Dan replied. "Just a little bit of misdirection, making you forget that tiny little detail and bang!"

"Just like that wife of yours," he continued. "You'd probably have kept her if you just hadn't answered yes to everything she said. Not that I'm complaining about that. You should be happy to get rid of her that easy."

I had to agree with that. I looked down at my hand. At the hole where my ring finger should have been. You see, I jumped over a fence, and the wedding ring got stuck, and - I guess I can leave out all the gory details. Anyway, that was all I had to show for two years of stormy marriage. That and a wardrobe packed with clothes that didn't fit her after her amazingly quick transformation from slender belladonna to heavyweight matron.

"I saw Sylvia the other day," Dan said. "She seemed to miss you. Was talking about coming back, in fact."

"Hah! That'll be the day!" I replied.

"I really wish I could believe that. But one little bat from those eyes, and there you go again. The problem, Dan, is that you're a real sucker. You're the best friend I ever had, intelligent, witty, kind and all that. But you're far too anxious to please. I could persuade you into anything!"

This was too much. Daniel was my very best friend, ever since we studied anthropology together. Even when his studies carried him into some rather bizarre fields, our weekly chess sessions and the fact that we could always talk about anything with each other, made us as close as two heterosexual guys could ever be. But even I had to draw the line somewhere.

"Well," I said - rather haughtily - "try to persuade me to regrow this finger then."

He fell silent. That alone was worth it. Mr. know all suddenly at loss of words.

"You know," he finally said, "I think I have an idea there. You see I just come over this amazing manuscript from..."

"Can the bullshit," I said rather more forcefully than I intended, "you know that's impossible."

He shrugged. "For the sake of friendship and the inquiring mind, are you willing to try an experiment?"

I wanted to laugh it away, but he did have two very good reasons for anything there. "Go on! As long as you keep those long explanations to yourself, that is."

"It's just crap, of course. It won't work. But it shouldn't hurt. The manuscript says something about side effects, but since none of us believe in it anyway..."

He had me hooked now, and he knew it. Though I never followed his explorations into the unknown, I definitely felt some strong attraction towards the occult. "What's it all about?" I asked.

"Well, you said I could not persuade you to regrow your lost finger," he answered. "I know a way that claims to do things like that. It's quite easy actually, just do exactly what I tell you to do!"

"You wanna bet on it?"

"No, but let's try anyway!"

I just nodded. After all I had nothing to loose, and it might be entertaining.

It wasn't. Actually it was terribly boring. A lot of "Johnny do this, Johnny do that" - as if I wasn't used to such kind of things already. Daniel had warned me that it would be 90% distraction, but hardly anything of it made any sense at all! Finally I couldn't stand it any more. "How long is this going to take?" I asked.

It shook Dan out of his apparently deep meditation. "Huh?"

"This has been going on for an hour now, and I don't feel any different. Are you ready to admit defeat now?"

Dan looked embarrassed, as if he had really believed it would work. "Actually it's more like five hours," he finally replied.

"What?" I looked at the clock. It was well past midnight. Somehow I must have completely lost track of the time. Regaining my posture I added: "In that case I think we'd better quit right now. I need my beauty sleep, you know."

Even then Dan had the courage to offer a smart remark: "Don't worry, you're more than beautiful enough already!"

"Thanks, but this is getting terribly boring. Any progress?" My remark came out a lot harsher than I intended.

He hesitated a little. Then he hesitated some more. "Why don't you have a look yourself?" he finally managed.

I looked at my hand. There was nothing wrong with them, Two petite, soft hands with ten perfectly ordinary long and slender digits. Nothing wrong with them. Suddenly it hit me: There was nothing wrong with them!

It took me some time to regain the ability to speak.

"How the Hell could you do that?" I blurted out. "It's just plain impossible!"

"In a way you're right," he replied. "It would be impossible for me to do it. What I did, was to persuade you to regrow your finger, I said I could trick you into doing anything, didn't I?"

I could tell he had problems believing the whole thing himself.

"But, even if it's so, it would surely take more than five hours!"

"Actually, it took far less. Most of the time I spent trying to cancel out some - well, some unexpected side effects."

Of course that caught my attention. "What side effects!"


He started to say something, then stopped. Finally he managed: "Are you sitting comfortably."


"OK, what are you sitting on?"

What a silly question! I was sitting relaxed, or as relaxed as circumstances allowed, I was sitting - on thin air, hovering a feet or two above the floor!

"!?" was all I could manage to say, but he seemed to understand: "Don't blame me! I just suggested you ought to be a little taller. I never thought you'd loose touch with the ground completely."

"Daniel," I said, as calmly as I could through clenched teeth, "This is NOT funny. HOW DO I GET DOWN?"

It wasn't easy at first. But after some struggling and wiggling I managed to touch the floor with a toe. After that there were no problems. I collapsed into a chair, savoring the touch of it. Believe me, gravity is great! You never really know how to appreciate it before the day you miss it. Dan found a blanket and put it over me. Shivering from cold and fear and exhaustion, I really needed that. Then he had senses enough to leave me alone for a few minutes.

After a while I asked - my voice small and thin, fringed with fright: "Any more 'side effects' you'd care to tell me about?"

"I really shouldn't," he replied "the less you're aware of, the easier it'll be to revert them. But I suppose you've already noticed your clothing?"

I hadn't. But when he mentioned it...

I started remembering that we had agreed that my clothes didn't fit me very well. Come to think of it, just pulling them off in front of him probably hadn't been the best solution. Not that I wouldn't gladly have let him look at (preferably quite a bit more than "look at", to be honest) any part of me he liked just for the asking, but there was no reason to admit that now.

"I suppose you thought that was amusing, or was it just an attempt to 'revert some minor side effects'?" I tried in vain to sound sarcastic. It didn't matter anyway. He already looked as downcast and nervous as anyone could be.

He didn't reply, so I just tucked the blanket around me and made my escape into the bedroom. I half hoped he would follow, but maybe it was just as well he didn't.

Looking through my wardrobe, I realized that nothing really fit me. I'm afraid I've never been too concerned about outwards appearances. I resolved to change THAT as soon as possible.

The clothes Sylvia left behind had more to offer. And it wasn't as she'd ever need them again (the thought made me giggle). I ended up with a rather basic outfit. Just a T-shirt and some jeans. The T-shirt was a really clinging affair - more revealing than hiding, but I let it pass. There was no way I could use any of Sylvia's tiny a-cup bras.

When I returned to the living room, Daniel had gone, leaving a note:

"I know it sounds like a bad excuse for escaping, but I really think we both have to think about it alone.
I'll try to find a way to revert the effect, but I'm not sure I can.


PS. Call me anytime you like, if you like to talk.

If I haven't heard from you by noon tomorrow, I'll call you."

That's all. I'm laying here in my bed, trying to figure out what he meant. I examined every inch of my body in the mirror. I think I look and feel a bit younger than I used to, but that's silly of course. That strange idea that my hair had grown is even more silly. Hair grows all the time, don't it? Nothing strange about that.

No, I guess he just made it all up to make himself appear mysterious and interesting.

He's gonna pay for that! A really nice dinner for two at a really, really expensive restaurant is just the start. And there's no way he'll ever trick me again!

Still there is something nagging my mind. Something very small - or maybe something very big. Something I'm sure I've missed.

I just can't put my finger on it.

(the end)

The End. (Complete)
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