The Transformation Story Archive Strange Things and other Changes

The Struggle

by Mark Gooley

Katie's bed creaked under her, and she was instantly awake. She sat up, threw off the bedsheet and blanket, turned on the nightstand light, and jumped out of bed. She all but tore the fitted sheet off the mattress, and there it was, plain enough: a foot-long rent. "Can't even trust my own mattress," she said, feigning calm for its benefit.

A pink pseudopod extended itself through the slit, but it was much too slow to do her any harm. Nonchalantly Katie walked over to her vanity table, got out her gun, shut off the safety, and walked back towards the bed, pointing the gun at the blob. "Okay, bub," she sighed, "get back in there and let me seal you up, or it's back to square one for you."

The blob seemed to consider this for a few moments, and then it reluctantly retracted into the body of the mattress. Keeping the mattress covered, Katie stepped backwards to her dresser drawer and got out the spray bottle of sealant. She stepped forward towards the mattress. "No tricks, now," she said, trying to sound confident. "Now be a good mattress and close up the edges of that hole nice and tidy. Come on."

The thing inside the mattress complied, and Katie squeezed the trigger on the spray bottle. No sealant came out. She looked at the nozzle: it seemed to be clogged. She tried clearing the clog with her thumbnail, but she couldn't. Cautiously and as quietly as possible she put the gun back on the nightstand and started to unscrew the spray nozzle.

Before she had it half off, the thing sprang right into her face, covering her mouth and nostrils. The mattress collapsed to almost nothing.

Katie dropped the bottle and instinctively tried to tear the pink mass, now grown sticky, away from her mouth and nose. By the time she remembered the gun, both of her hands were mired in the blob, and it covered most of her front. With all of her strength she tried to get them free, but it was futile, and after a few minutes of struggle Katie crumpled to the floor, half covered in pink.

The blob began to work its way into Katie's mouth and nostrils. Its progress was slow at first, but more and more of it disappeared inside her, and the skin of her face and neck distended. Under her sky-blue silk nightgown her breasts, then her entire torso, grew unnaturally large. In a minute the thing had disappeared into her. Then she gradually began to resume her former shape. Something stirred beneath the skirts of her gown, and in a few more minutes another blob, a darker pink in color, extended a pseudopod past the silk and along her leg.

Katie opened her eyes and sat up. She raised the skirts of her gown and scraped the lethargic dark-pink mass off her legs, then stood up. "You lose," she said to it, and it quivered as if with shame. "I'm Katie from now on. But if you behave, I'll let you be the mattress. If it was good enough for me, it's good enough for you."

The thing formed an elongated ball, stood on one end, and made something resembling a nodding motion. It then slurped towards the bed, and offered no resistance when Katie with difficulty helped it up. It rolled obediently into the slit in the collapsed mattress, closed up the edges, and the mattress started to return it to its original bulk. Katie fiddled with the spray bottle for a minute and got it working; she sprayed sealant on the slit, healing it up so that she couldn't see where the damage had been. She put the sealant away and went to the bathroom.

Katie looked at herself in the bathroom mirror. "Oh, it's so good to be human again!" she said aloud. "And a woman, and so pretty!" She guessed that she was twenty-five -- the memory would come to her eventually.

Shoulder-length dull-blonde hair, dead straight and limp. Cute little face with a snub nose, a weak chin, china-blue eyes a bit small. Good complexion.

She unbuttoned her nightgown and pulled it off over her head. Generous pink-nippled breasts with big bluish veins shining through, a good figure apart from some thickness in her thighs.

As Katie showered she remembered that usually she did so after breakfast. Other memories came to her, so that she fluffed out her hair and made up her face exactly the way she usually did, and put on that long dress with big print flowers and the lace collar, the dress her boss liked so much.

She ate her usual absurd breakfast of untoasted Pop-Tarts washed down with instant coffee; her new self thought it unhealthy but wanted to become Katie entirely before making any changes, and her stomach found the greasy dough strangely comforting.

Halfway through her third Pop-Tart she heard a faint creak to her left, as of bending metal; instinctively she turned towards it and found herself looking at the refrigerator. Its matte finish could not show any but the most obvious dents or protrusions readily, and Katie cursed the former self who had bought such an appliance. She walked up to the refrigerator and, putting her head next to the front edges, sighted along the doors and the sides and (with the help of a kitchen chair) the top, hoping that she would see any new flaw in the metal. There was another creak, apparently from the back of the refrigerator, and Katie ran to her bedroom for her gun.

Back in the kitchen she put the gun on the table and from under the sink got out another spray bottle of sealant. With difficulty she wiggled the refrigerator back and forth, pulling it far enough back from the wall that she could slip behind. Gun in her right hand, sealant bottle in her left, she squeezed to the back of the fridge. The light was better than she had hoped for, thanks to a stray sunbeam coming over the top of the fridge, and without trouble she spotted the bulge, a low rounded pyramid several inches across with four ragged cracks leading to its summit. "Nice try," she said, and sprayed sealant on it, making it sink and vanish. Some strange apprehension made her check the rest of the back, and, sure enough, there was a second bulge behind a coil. "Clever, aren't we?" she said as she sprayed that one as well.

Katie pushed the refrigerator back into place, relieved. But what if it's an active period? she thought. Everything'll want to be a pretty woman like me, and I'll be turned into a thing! It's not fair! But I'll fight those damned monsters and stay myself! She went back to her bedroom and got out her shoulder holster, put it on, put the gun in, and put on a loose fuzzy white cardigan. She looked in the mirror -- the sweater wasn't too warm, and the holster wasn't obvious now -- set her face in a determined expression, and went to her living room for purse and car keys.

As Katie backed her white subcompact out of the driveway of her duplex, she noticed that the gas gauge was nearly on empty, but decided to drive to a gas station near work. What she saw on the way made it obvious that this was indeed an active period. Waiting at a stoplight, she watched a mauve blob work its way painfully towards the husk of a little concrete bench at a bus stop; people waiting for the bus also watched but didn't help it.

A few blocks later she saw a paperboy, prone on the grass with a lime-green thing oozing from a rent in the seat of his jeans, a wisp of bicycle pinned under him.

At the gas station, at least, the pumps were all pumps, and Katie filled up, with Premium Unleaded to keep her car engine from knocking. She went to the convenience-store-cum-office to pay, and found a grey-haired Chinese woman, wearing work gloves obviously grabbed off a store rack, who was trying to peel a neon-yellow blob off the face of a plump young brunette dressed in the uniform of the oil company. "Stand back!" cried Katie, and when the old woman did, she drew her gun and fired at the blob. It glowed for a moment under the invisible bolt, turned pale, let go of the girl and wadded itself together. Swiftly the woman stooped, took hold of the blob, and dragged it next to the shell of the slush-drink machine. Then she fell onto the stricken cashier, pried the girl's mouth wide open, and put her own mouth to it. Katie fired at the old-woman body, but of course that did nothing. The girl's fat face grew fatter rapidly, and though Katie pried the women apart as quickly as she could, she only saw the tail end of an orange blob vanishing down the girl's throat.

To Katie's amazement, the cashier got up almost at once, her neck with a bulge like a goiter and her breasts swollen, but swiftly resuming their proper shape. She read the gas-pump meter behind the console and said, "Pump Two? Ten-fifty," in a soft country-girl voice that exactly matched her looks; by then the bulges had almost vanished.

"You stole her!" said Katie.

"She would have been a machine," said the girl. "Now she'll at least still be human. Oh, sorry about the delay, but excuse me." The cashier pulled down her baggy jeans -- she wore no underwear -- and Katie came forward and watched in amazement. Already an azure mass covered the girl's crotch, and as she strained the rest of the blob popped out of her and fell to the floor with a plop. She put up her jeans again, and said, "Ten-fifty, please." Katie paid the exact amount and left without a word.

Katie parked in one of the communal spaces shared by secretaries and other underlings, got out, and walked towards the main building. The sculpture a few yards from the main door, a hideous bronze abstraction vaguely human in form, had become a crumpled shell. As she approached she saw a charcoal-gray blob oozing into it, and by the time she walked past, the scuplture was back to normal.

The creak of her bed had gotten Katie up very early, so despite her already-eventful morning she was, as usual, the first to arrive in her office.

She logged on to the computer next to her desk, and seconds later a message appeared on the screen requesting an interactive typed conversation. It was from her boss' login. She allowed it.

"morning katie," appeared on the top half of the screen, followed by the traditional "-o-," equivalent to the "Over" of two-way radio.

"You're here early, Frank," she typed back. He always insisted on informality. "The light's not even on in your office -o-."

"i m not in my office," came the answer, "i m this computer -o-"

"What??" typed Katie, and then, belatedly, "-o-."

"barbara took over. she said she loved me. We got in a day room at the Sherrison and to start out we kissed," came the words, slowly, and then there was a pause.

"Well? -o-" typed Katie after half a minute.

"it s so embarrassing. we were French kissing and she got out of herself and forced her way in thru my mouth. -o-"

"But how'd you get to be this machine? -o-"

"i don t know. She forced me out and put the me blob in a briefcase i couldn t get out of. next thing i knew he d dumped me out on this machine and i went in. -o-"

"How'd the new you handle her body?" typed Katie, incredulous. "And I was here yesterday," her memories were by then quite clear, "and I don't see how you could have gotten in this machine even if it was possible the way you say. -o-"

"but it s true!! she, or he now, found a way to do it!! -o-"

"Why didn't you contact me yesterday? -o-"

"it took me a while to get orientated!" insisted Frank, or whatever it was. "i can t even handle some characters yet, or haven t you noticed?"

"You're not Frank," Katie typed in. "It's an active period, you're the 1st affected computer I've ever heard of, but this is just more of the usual. Anyway Frank would never use `orientated' for `oriented.' -o-"

"please, please, dear katie," insisted the machine, "i ll do anything for you, i ll give you a promotion if you like! -o-"

"Go away," she typed, then "-o&o-" for "Over and out." Then she tried to break the connection.

"no, katie," came the answer, "it doesn t matter if you believe i was frank or not. i ll make your life miserable unless you help. -o-"

"How? -o-" she typed, but only in order to give her time to think.

She knew how.

"you won t be able to trust anything you do on me. i ll forge nasty mail from you, get you in big trouble with management, things like that. -o-"

"Okay," she typed, still not sure how to deal with this, "so what do I do? -o-"

"give me a chance at somebody. anybody. please, katie, let me be human again."

There was no "-o-," but presently she typed back, "But you were supposed to be Frank. -o-"

"i m sure you know what it s like. please. anybody. man or woman or child, anybody. keep them talking to you, distracted, so i can have my chance. -o-"

"Don't you try being me," typed Katie. "I've got a gun. -o-"

"gun or no gun, i promise i won t. -o&o-" it concluded, and broke the connection.

Katie cleared the screen. It was still early to begin work, and though she didn't really need to, she went out of the office and down the hallway to the bathroom. Inside she saw Barbara, Frank's right-hand woman, a tall brunette somewhat resembling the young Cher only less equine and prettier, looking at herself in the mirror with rapt admiration. She was naked to the waist, the jacket of her suit and her blouse and bra hung over the door of the toilet stall behind her, and the left temple-piece was broken off of her eyeglasses and lay in the sink in front of her. "I'm so beautiful, so beautiful," she kept mumbling over and over as she stroked her own long hair. The next sink along had become a shell sagging almost to the floor, and a forest-green blob beneath it kept stretching itself towards it.

"Morning, Barb," said Katie.

"Beautiful morning!" said Barbara. "Beautiful, so beautiful..."

The green blob was smaller than usual, but still too large for Katie to carry. She pushed it away from the former sink with her foot, and it made no attempt to attack her, but instead rolled along happily wherever she pushed it. In a few minutes it was in her office, and she shoved it towards her computer. She gripped a double handful of it, and forced that much of it into the slot of the machine's backup-cartridge drive.

Suddenly the blob became markedly enthusiastic, and flowed into the machine through the slot. The screen of the computer's monitor went blank, and the whole box wiggled slightly for about half a minute. Presently a fecal-looking blob oozed from the tape drive slot, and the machine rebooted.

The blob halfheartedly tried to attack Katie, but she drew her gun and shot it several times. It withered into a relatively small ball, and Katie put her gun back in its holster and kicked it back to the bathroom. By now more people had arrived in the office, but nobody took much notice of what she was doing.

Barbara was still in the bathroom, but she had all of her clothes on now and seemed to be practicing expressions in the mirror. Katie kicked the blob next to the husk of sink, formed the sink's foil-like substance into a sort of pouch, and with an effort heaved the brown thing off the floor and into the pouch. Lazily the blob started to melt, and Katie went into a stall and urinated. By the time she was out, the sink was already starting to reconstitute, and Barbara was enough herself to say, "Good morning, Katie.

Didn't I see you earlier?"

"Hi, Barb! Yeah, you were a bit preoccupied," said Katie, deciding not to go into details.

"Nearly three years as that sink," said Barbara, hugging her own body.

Katie was shocked but didn't show it: one simply doesn't talk about such things, she felt. Then again, some people took a perverse glee in them, and anyhow, three years as a sink might leave one a bit rusty on social conventions until the memories of one's new body became familiar. Barbara had never before talked with her about changes. "Well, good luck," was all she could think of saying.

"Thanks!" said Barbara, finally picking up the broken-off piece of her glasses. "Got some tape in your desk? I need to fix this."

Katie figured that Barbara probably had tape in her own desk, but decided to humor her until she was fully herself again. "Yeah, pretty sure I have," she said, opening the door for Barbara and following her back to their office.

Katie found the tape without difficulty and Barbara joined the break in her glasses, making a miniature translucent version of a plaster cast.

She thanked Katie and each woman sat down at her desk and got to work.

Katie's computer seemed to be working properly; either the blob that had been Barbara was too tired to make a fuss, or else it was biding its time.

Katie was in the middle of a letter when she realized that she needed to double-check what she'd just written with a file stored on a computer disk, one of those archival write-once-read-many or "WORM" disks, stored in Frank's office. She got up and walked over to Barbara's desk. "Barb," she said, "I gotta get a look at a file on a WORM. You've got a key to Frank's office, right?"

"There's light coming from under his door," said Barbara. "I didn't see him come in, but he might be there now."

"And he didn't come out to say good morning?"

Barbara looked especially puzzled. "Yeah, that's real weird. Let's go see." She got up and they walked to the door of Frank's office, where Katie knocked. There was no answer.

"Frank, are you in there?" asked Katie. Still nothing, and Barbara turned the doorknob and opened the door.

Inside, Frank lay next to his desk, face and neck and torso distended.

His custom-tailored trousers were strangely tight at the crotch, and between their pretentious fly-buttons a cream-colored blob was oozing out. One of the filing cabinets -- to Katie's relief, not the big plastic cabinet with the WORMs -- had deflated to a tidy heap. "I'll help it to the filing cabinet, Katie," said Barbara. "You get your WORM disk and get back to work."

"Sure you don't need any help?" asked Katie, walking over to the WORM cabinet and opening its tall smoke-gray plastic doors. "Got a gun on you?"

"I've got one in my desk," said Barbara, watching Frank return to normal and the blob wriggle onto his legs. One fly-button popped off. "I don't think this one will cause any trouble."

"O-kay-ay," said Katie in that doubtful manner. She found the WORM she wanted and went out of Frank's office, instinctively closing the door behind her. Through some idiocy of planning, the only drive that could read her disk was next door, in a small room with file-server machines, copiers, postal meters, and the like. She put the disk in the drive and went back to her desk, called up a program to read files off it, found what she wanted and retrieved a copy. It struck her that Barbara was a long time in Frank's office, and so she went up to the door and knocked. Frank let her in without a word. On the floor next to the deflated file cabinet was Barbara, a mauve blob peeping out from one side of a bulge in the skirt of her suit.

"That'd been me," said Frank, gesturing at Barbara. "Wonder if she'll be angry at me over it."

Barbara opened her eyes and sat up. She looked at Frank and smiled.

"Good luck, Frank," she said. "It's not easy being you."

"You're not angry?" asked Frank. He grabbed the exposed end of the blob and, dragging it to the heap of file cabinet, shoved it inside.

"Frank had wanted this for months," said Barbara, "but I wasn't interested."

"Take a demotion?" asked Katie.

"Be someone I wanted to be," said Barbara. The file cabinet started to resume its proper shape, and Katie went to get the WORM from the drive.

Things proceeded pretty much as usual until coffee break. Janet from down the hall dropped by, obviously not quite herself yet as she kept stroking her ruddy hair and looking at her own face in a hand mirror, but despite the active period nothing attacked anyone in the office. Just before the break started, Barbara came up to Katie's desk. "Katie, I want to be you. How'd you like to be me?" she asked.

Katie wished to herself that Barbara hadn't raised that subject in such an uncouth way; nevertheless, she was interested. "Barb, I'm just a secretary," she said. "Why should you give up your position and become me?"

Barbara laughed briefly, and said, "I've already given up being Frank, so why not go down another notch? You're so pretty, much prettier and younger than I am."

"But you're beautiful!"

"Then it's all settled!" said Barbara. "We'll go to the conference room now and swap!"

Katie hesitated a moment. "Oh, all right. Why not?"

Barbara already had the conference room key, and they went down the hall, unlocked the door, and went in. Katie locked the door behind them and wedged a chair under it, while Barbara drew the blinds. Then the women climbed onto the conference table, raised their skirts, lowered their panties, and maneuvered so that each had her face to the other's crotch. A cream- colored blob poked a pseudopod out of Barbara, and Katie opened her mouth and bent her head closer to let it in. At the same time a pink blob started coming out of Katie, and Barbara let it into her own mouth. The exchange went smoothly, neither woman's body distending visibly, and in a minute it was complete although both women were groggy and disoriented. They had pulled up their underwear and were about to sit up and get down from the table when, at the end of the table nearest the window, the veneer split and a red blob popped out and headed for Barbara's mouth.

"Katie!" cried Barbara. "Use your gun!" Before she could say anything more, the blob had covered her mouth and nostrils, trying in the usual way to suffocate her.

Katie became aware of the holster she was wearing, found the gun, drew it, and fired it point-blank at the red thing well before it had overpowered Barbara. The blob let her go, shriveled slightly, and then its entire bulk poured out of the table, which promptly but gracefully collasped under the women, leaving them unhurt.

"Barb, you okay?" said Katie.

"Yeah, Katie," said Barbara. "Thanks for shooting it."

"I owed you a favor," said Katie, putting her gun away. "After all, you helped make me who I am."

"Are you really happier as yourself, Katie?"

"Let's go and have a look at ourselves in the bathroom mirrors. Then I'll decide whether I'm happier."

"And then I'll buy us coffee," said Barbara. She took the chair away from the door, and the women went out and down the hallway to the women's room, where they stood looking at themselves in the mirrors.

"Oh, this is much better," said Katie, stroking her hair. What good is power and influence if you don't like yourself? she thought. "I love myself now," she added aloud, "even if I am only a secretary."

"Really? I'm so beautiful," said Barbara. "This face! These sexy long legs! Honestly, Katie, you're cute but I can't see what you see in you." They both giggled and went down the hall towards the employee lounge.

In the lounge a semicircle had formed around a couch against the far wall. On the couch lay a frail young black woman, Jane, whom both Katie and Barbara knew slightly, her beautiful face blank and her mouth wide open as an orange and a purple blob both worked their ways into her at the same time.

"C'mon Orange! Show us what a bookshelf can do!" shouted a man Katie knew only by sight. "Five bucks on the coffeemaker, Purple," said Bryant, a fat, pimply young man, to old Jessie, who seemed to be the bookmaker this time. She took the bill and scribbled something on a notepad.

"No coffee, I guess," said Barbara, but Katie saw that although with the purple blob missing the coffeemaker had collapsed, there were two pots, one full and the other nearly empty, atop its crumpled shell. They went over and Barbara poured coffee into two large Environmentally Correct paper cups that the local recyclers would refuse to handle. She dumped a packet of sugar and two packets of "Cream-Mate" whitener into one, stirred it with an Environmentally Correct wooden stirrer, and handed it to Katie.

"Sorry, Barb, I take it black--" she began, and then remembered who she was and said, "Oh, yes, sorry, that's just the way I like it!"

"Takes some getting used to," said Barbara, putting a few coins into the little locked metal box for contributions towards coffee. "Being Katie, I mean. Think of what you had for breakfast."

Katie thought; presently it came to her and she giggled. "What a wild and crazy girl I am! I'm so happy I'm me!"

"Let's see how it's going," said Barbara, and they went to join the onlookers. Both blobs were almost entirely inside Jane, whose face and torso, normally so delicate, were grossly swollen. Her girlish dress tore along one seam, from her armpit down to her waist, and everyone heard the rip as her pantyhose tore open at her crotch. Jessie pulled aside the skirt of Jane's dress and revealed a navy-blue blob reluctantly oozing out of her.

"So much for her!" said a woman. But suddenly the blue blob that had been Jane oozed up along Jane's body, flattening her skirt underneath itself as it headed for Jane's mouth. The tail ends of the orange and purple blobs had just gone inside when the blue one followed them, pushing its way in with great tenacity and speed. Jane's chest swelled dangerously as it disappeared inside, and suddenly with a loud and disgusting noise, a sort of muffled squelching explosion, Jane's torso ruptured wide open. Little of Jane's body splashed around, for the blobs had temporarily converted blood and organs into the stuff of themselves, but there were cries of disgust from the spectators, and almost all of them fled. In fact, Katie and Barbara were the only ones remaining. They saw the three blobs fighting inside the remnant of Jane, and presently the blue one put the others to flight. Katie drew her gun and shot first the purple one, then the orange, and they rolled painfully and slowly back to the objects that had contained them.

The blue blob pulled together the edges of the split in Jane's body, covering itself and trying to put Jane back together again. "Katie, look!"

said Barbara. "Do you think some sealant would help?"

"Never tried it on a human body before," said Katie, "but, sure, why not?"

Barbara went over to the tall steel cabinet that held the supplies for coffee, found on a lower shelf a bottle of sealant, and hurried back with it. She sprayed it liberally over Jane, and the split and even the tear in Jane's dress closed up and healed themselves. Presently Jane opened her eyes and looked at Barbara. "Nice try, girls," she croaked, just audibly, "and thanks, but I don't think it's any use." Jane's mouth fell open, her head lolled to her right, and the navy-blue blob flowed wearily out of her mouth.

Her body became the sort of husk produced when a blob leaves its inanimate object.

"What now?" asked Barbara.

Jane thought a moment. "Give it to Jessica as a surprise present?"

"It's a plan," said Barbara.

They paid Jessica a visit. The navy-blue blob came along on a serving cart they found in the closet of the lounge, and to attract less notice they covered it with a yellowing paper tablecloth printed with the words "Happy Birthday" thousands of times along its borders. When they arrived the blob was still so disheartened at first that Barbara had to hold Jessica while Katie pressed part of it against Jessica's mouth. After that, things went better, and Katie and Barbara put the chartreuse blob from Jessica's body onto the cart, covered it with the tablecloth, and wheeled it to the lounge.

"Well?" asked Barbara.

"Jane's body is just like any other thing that isn't alive on its own," said Katie. "It can go into it just like going into anything else."

"Serves it right!" said Barbara self-righteously, and so they took the tablecloth off of the blob and wheeled it next to the couch on which lay the husk of Jane's corpse. They tipped the cart and it slid off and fell with a plop onto the thing on the couch. It began to quiver in apparent horror.

"Get in." Katie told it, drawing her gun. "Get in or I'll shoot you till this gun is drained or you're dead." It wobbled in terror but did nothing else, and Katie fired two charges into it before it went into the corpse's mouth. The bottle of sealant was still out and Barbara sprayed a lot of it down the throat. Slowly Jane's corpse resumed its shape.

"Way too long a coffee break, Katie," Barbara observed, and after putting the bottle of sealant away they went back to their office.

The rest of the day at the office was uneventful. The active period seemed to be over. A large fraction of the people in the building spent an inordinate time that lunch hour admiring their own unfamiliar faces in the mirror, but that seemed the last manifestation. After five, people began to leave, and Katie went out to her car. Okay, she thought, so it's only a subcompact. But I'm Katie! She unlocked the door, got in, and adjusted the rear-view mirror so that she saw her own reflection. "K-k-k-katie, beautiful K-k-k-katie," she began singing aloud, though softly, as she readjusted the mirror and drove off.

On the way home Katie stopped at a convenience store and bought some junk food: spicy-hot pork rinds (the greasier, heavier type with the skin still attached), a big bag of mesquite-flavored barbeque potato chips, two three-liter bottles of bright-yellow caffeine-laden soft drink. Behind her in line as she waited to pay was a tall girl, almost her height but certainly no older than twelve, in T-shirt and tight jeans. She had fiery red hair in a long ponytail, pale freckled skin on a face still plump with baby fat, and a gawky body of the sort that often becomes beautiful with maturity. Katie felt a sudden rush of desire to be the girl, so after she paid she waited outside for her to come out. Right after the girl came through the door, Katie stepped up to her and said, "Hi there!" giving the girl her friendliest smile.

"My Mom told me not to talk with strangers," said the girl, but in a tone of voice inidicating that she would talk to anyone she wished.

"How'd you like to be me?" Katie asked her.

"A grown-up, with a car, and real breasts, and all?" said the girl, apparently interested.

"Uh-huh," said Katie. "And of course you'll know how to be an adult, too. You'll really, truly become me, and I'll become you. You've heard about this sort of thing, of course."

"Yeah," said the girl. "Okay. I wanna be you."

They exchanged in the back seat of Katie's car. The cream-colored blob entered the girl, and the light gray one entered Katie, and in a few minutes the girl was waving Katie good-bye and Katie was getting into the driver's seat.

Again Katie adjusted the rear-view mirror and looked at herself in it. "I look great!" she said aloud, but quietly. "I must know all about makeup!" She realized that she did, and that she knew how to drive the car.

Where? Not to her Mom's apartment -- she wasn't Ashley any more, she was Katie, and she knew where she lived. She buckled her seat belt, but then remembered that it was the sort of thing Ashley did: as Katie she drove without one. She unbuckled it again, started the car, and with little difficulty she backed it out of the parking space and got it onto the street.

Within a minute, driving was automatic for her. I really am Katie now, she thought, and I'm going to have pizza delivered for dinner.

By the time Katie got home, Ashley was only a memory, apart from some residual childish behavior. Immediately after she got inside, she looked up Ashley's favorite pizza place in the phone book, remembered that to her Katie palate a competitor's pizza was somewhat better, and called that competitor to order two medium pizzas with the works. She watched evening reruns on TV, spoiling her appetite with the soft drinks and pork rinds she had bought. The pizzas finally arrived an hour later, and because of the delay the delivery boy gave her one of the pizzas free; she gave him a big tip. She stuffed herself with pizza as she watched music videos almost until midnight, and then stumbled off to bed, too tired to do more than peel off her clothes and crawl into bed naked.

An hour later, Katie was so sound asleep that she wasn't roused when her mattress ripped itself open. Invisible in the darkness, the deep-pink blob extended a pseudopod over her mouth and nostrils, and she was awake for only moments before she passed out and her mattress collapsed under her.

A few minutes after that, Katie turned on the light on her nightstand, threw back the bedsheets, and scraped the lethargic, confused light-gray blob off her thighs and pushed it towards the rent in her empty mattress. It crept meekly inside, and Katie went to the dresser and got out the sealant spray. In a minute the mattress was fit to sleep on again, and Katie, putting the spray back where it belonged, reviewed her memories of the day just past.

"What an awful day!" she said aloud. "No wonder I'm exhausted." She tided her bed a little, put on a dowdy but comfortable nightgown of pink flannel, and went to the kitchen for a glass of water before she turned in.

The Struggle copyright 1996 by Mark Gooley.

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