Disclaimer: This novel contains adult material including sexually explicit activities, strong language, homophobic language, extreme violence, suicide, depictions of trauma, and more. Reader discretion is advised.
The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan
Shard 03: Another Day; Another Doubt
“Itadakimasu!” Maxxie, Zoe, Shiaka, and myself all cheered before we began digging into our lunches.
It was a dorky ritual Maxxie mandated a couple years back when we stopped eating in the regular lunch room. Not only was it always noisy, crowded, and filled with people doing dumb crap, it was a bit too much stimulation for Shiaka. Fortunately, Maxxie was buddy-bud with the teacher who normally uses this room, and they’ve been letting us eat lunch in this room for 3.5 years.
Ordinarily, this room, room number 1337, was used as a study hall for small groups of students with IEPs, Individualized Education Program. Students who needed a more structured study hall with a smaller class size. This was reflected in the room’s size, only being about 20 square meters, but for the four of us, it was more than big enough.
Anyway, with our greeting said, the four of us dug into our lunches. Maxxie and Shiaka both had Japanese-style bento boxes, because Shiaka’s mother is Japanese and Maxxie is… one sixteenth Japanese. But she figured the best way to start ‘shedding a kilo or three’ was to eat like a Japanese student, given the small portions found in a bento box. Which was at least a somewhat reasonable diet plan. Not that I thought it was going to work.
Zoe had a simple chicken sandwich. While I had an unnamed dish consisting of chickpeas, rice, tomato, and zucchini, with some canola oil and vinegar for flavor. It was something that my mother often made, and since it was pretty simple, I decided to have it as my lunch for the entire week.
As we ate our lunches in relative silence. Maxxie checked her phone in one hand while spooning her bento into her mouth. Shiaka used chopsticks to eat with one hand while navigating something on her laptop with the other. While Zoe ate in silence before finishing in about three minutes— he was a quick, yet composed, eater— before he pulled out his phone. I was still finishing up my meal, but the silence was getting to me, so I started talking to Zoe.
“Are you checking anything in particular?” I asked.
“I’m just browsing The Journal,” Zoe said before clearing his throat. “Seeing what’s happening in the world today.”
“The Journal?” I repeated.
“The Wall Street Journal. In business parlance, it is commonly referred to as ‘The Journal.’”
“Which you’re reading to stay up to date on the world of business and develop your understanding of myriad subjects?” I stated, paraphrasing the explanation Zoe gave when he started reading that publication in 2011.
“Okay then,” I said, pausing before coming up with a follow-up comment. “Though, it is awfully presumptuous to just call it ‘The Journal’ because there are a lot of other journals out there. WSJ would be a better shorthand… if not for the fact that ‘double-u’ is a bad name for a letter. The German pronunciation, vey, is far better.”
“…Something that I had to accept long ago is that humans are irrational beings, as are their languages. It likely irks me as much as it irks you, Jad. But some things you simply have to live with.” Zoe explained, a faint forlorn expression on his face.
“Like how ‘bull market’ makes sense, but ‘bear market’ doesn’t?” Shiaka added. “Of all the animals that hibernate, why would you ever choose a bear?”
“Probably ‘cos white business dudes are the worst at naming stuff?” Maxxie answered before plopping one of those mini octopus sausages into her mouth.
“That’s a bit racist… but it’s at least somewhat true,” Shiaka murmured. “I’m still struggling to understand the perspective of those who name things at Microsoft. Regardless, I have something to share with all of you.”
As Shiaka made her segue, she turned her laptop around to us, which showed off a dark gray user interface with a vibrant green and blue rectangle in the center, with black text that read ‘Crocodile Platformer Project.’ Leaning in closer, I could tell that this was a Unity developer console.
“I mentioned to you that I was working on a little project over the past few weeks, and I think I’m ready to show it to you three. It’s just a simple little 3D platformer test demo I made because I wanted to get a loose idea of how Unity works.”
Shiaka then pulled out an Xbox One controller from her backpack and began playing this demo. It featured a bipedal crocodile character who, naturally, reminded me of the protagonist from 1997’s Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, traversing through a snowy test environment.
“All the assets are store bought or otherwise royalty-free, but the basics of a 3D platformer are all here,” Shiaka explained as she moved the player character about.
She demonstrated how she incorporated a triple jump a la 3D Super Mario games. How rudimentary enemies would chase the player character around, but could be defeated using both jumps and by spitting a fireball from the crocodile’s mouth. And how the crocodile’s movement speed was affected by slopes and icy terrain.
“Damn, girl! You never cease to impress!” Maxxie gawked as she watched Shiaka play.
“How long did this take you?” Zoe asked, looking at the screen intently.
“Um, I was not really keeping track, but several dozen hours. I was figuring things out for the first time and looking up a lot of tutorials.”
“Even if this took you over a hundred hours, I’d still say this is something to be proud of,” I commented. “I don’t know if anybody else in this school could make something like this.”
“Oh? P-Please, Jad. I’m no genius programmer or anything. There was a lot of trial and error involved here, and I learned a lot by mimicking other people.”
Shiaka started looking down at the ground as we praised her, too modest to accept that something she spent so much time on was, in fact, good.
“Shiaka, sweetie, we’re your friends,” Maxxie said as she gently grasped Shiaka’s hand. “You can act more than a little cocky around us, y’know?”
“You really should try to get over this anxiety,” Zoe added. “The world of game development is harsh and, unless you stand up for yourself, people will almost certainly take advantage of you.”
While his words were clunky, we knew what Zoe was getting at. If you wanna work in video games, you work until 10 PM, and you come in on Saturdays too. At least in the AAA industry. Some smaller studios have better practices, but it was a pretty scary and competitive place for someone as frail as Shiaka. Though, that doesn’t mean that any of us would ever dream of discouraging her from following her ambitions.
Before things could progress much further, we noticed the time. Shiaka and Maxxie finished their lunches, and we idly chatted for a few minutes before heading off to our respective classes. Zoe and Shiaka split off to opposite ends of the school while Maxxie and I headed to the library for a study hall.
While Maxxie had homework from her morning classes, she shrugged at the notion of doing that and, having me ‘all to herself’ she decided that we should spend this period working on our RP. Aria of Crystalia was a fantasy-themed role-playing project that Maxxie and I began back in February. It was an interactive story where Maxxie and I would take turns telling a narrative from our characters’ perspectives, where we would both collaborate and improvise based on what the other person wrote. Over the past two months, we managed to write over 30,000 words between the two of us, and it had become the go-to ‘thing’ for Maxxie and I to do together.
The story was centered around two adventurers traveling through the land of Darvage, a lawless land with neither kings nor emperors. A lawless land home to both great danger and great opportunity. With the epitome of this mentality being the landmark at the center of this region, Mount Crystalia. A hollow mountain with a harsh exterior yet an interior that dissuaded all from venturing near it. Yet its interior was lined with the most pristine crystals in all the world. It was the primary destination of most characters, and ours were no exception.
My character was a female human by the name of Willow, a roguish young girl who lost everything when her town was ravaged years ago, and got by on her novice-level understanding of the magical arts. While Maxxie’s character was a male anthropomorphic fox man, or ‘kitsune’ by the name of Beet. He was strong, not the smartest sort in the world, had access to a wide repertoire of ‘trickster’ magics, but could only cast spells sparingly.
Together, we had gotten into a number of scrapes together, but, as of our update last week, Maxxie invented a magical doodad that switched two people’s souls. Meaning that, naturally, our characters underwent a body swap. Why? Because Maxxie thought it would be funny to see me fumbling with this new situation.
Our update today mostly centered around our characters explaining how to use their powers to each other before fighting slimes, because there are always slimes. As they practiced, Beet teased Willow, saying that they should stay like this, while Willow went on about how strange it was to be covered in fur and have a snout jutting out from her face. I was not super fond of this direction, because it reminded me of how, five months ago, Maxxie and I were actually swapping bodies. It felt like the universe, or perhaps Verde herself, was playing a trick on me, and I thought of objecting to this move at first. However… it made Maxxie happy, and it helped me hone my skills as a writer. So I couldn’t really say no.
Try as we might, we could only write so much within 40 minutes, and were forced to depart as our afternoon classes began.
Calculus started with the introduction of the third-to-last chapter we’d tackle this semester. Math was always a forte of mine and, with no friends to distract me, I could focus squarely on the work, breezing through the material pretty easily. It was typical for me to go through the material before the teacher could finish their explanation, and by the time he was walking students through more complex examples, I was working on tonight’s homework.
College Financial Accounting was next, and while I was sitting right next to Shiaka, we did not really talk all too much during our lectures. Instead, we just typed our notes on the classroom computers and did whatever Excel exercises the teacher had lined up. Today though, it was mostly an introduction to how companies determine budgets, different types of budgets that are used, and how to calculate the direct materials and labor assigned to a project. It was pretty straightforward stuff, even if it was a bit too much for a single period.
As the class ended a minute after the bell rang, Shiaka left and walked out together, heading to the library for our final study hall. We walked side by side as we took the ‘scenic route’ and with the halls fairly quiet, I decided to bring up the game demo she showed me two hours ago.
“You know, I was serious at lunch today. I think you should look into making games as a career.”
“I… I want to,” Shiaka began, her voice quiet and muffled by the ambient noise of the lightly populated hallway. “But, as you all said, the games industry is very… fickle in how it treats those who make games. I want to make them, but I do not know if I can make games good or quickly enough to support myself. I have only tried to make prototypes, simple high-score games, and I don’t think I have what it takes to make something worthy of much attention on my own. And while a team could work, I…”
“You would need to find people you’re comfortable with before you could collaborate with others?”
“Well, I’m not sure if that’s the best idea. I work best by myself, at least that’s what my therapist told me, and while I can work with others, putting my trust in them and relying on them is a bit… hard. Strangers still scare me and I… I’m not even sure I can get a job. Not when I’m… me. So even thinking about this as a fantasy… stings a little.”
“Shiaka, the state said they would help you get a job, right? The Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services took on your case and is willing to help you. You should not worry about finding a job. They’ll find one for you. It’s their job to do so. So… don’t worry. Everything is going to be alright. Besides, you’re not going to need to find a job for another 4 years.”
This was something Shiaka did not really like to think about. But after she was… physically assaulted and nearly murdered back when she was 8-years-old, she received a large amount of ‘assistance’ from various state governments. This included access to the employment assistance program offered by Illinois, who she met with earlier this year to discuss career goals.
Shiaka remained quiet as I tried to reassure her, but remained by my side as we made our way to the library. While on our way, we happened to walk past the student art gallery. There, I took a moment to glance over things, seeing if anything new had been added over spring break, and I saw that a new piece by Maxxie was added. As per usual, it was another anime-style illustration, this time featuring a bunch of characters from a webcomic that she had rebooted… three times since I’ve met her.
The fact that I had recognized these characters, that I remembered the first iterations of the designs Maxxie showed me when she was 10, made her current level of skill all the more remarkable. I was not sure if she was ‘technically’ at the level of a professional, whatever that actually meant, but at the very least, she was damn close.
After taking a mental photograph of the art piece, I resumed walking to the library along with Shiaka. Once there, I decided to tackle my homework and type my notes right away, while Shiaka did the same. I finished with about 15 minutes left, giving me time to socialize. I first looked over to Shiaka, and I saw her sucked in at her laptop, working on something intensive. She never looked angry when she was actually angry, but she always looked angry when she was concentrating on something.
Maxxie was also in the library during this period, but she normally used it as an opportunity to do all of her homework before school was over. In her mind, sixth period was for goofing off, while 9th period was for serious work. Which certainly wasn’t a bad way to go about things.
While my friends worked, I spent the rest of the period reading through the book I had flopping around in my backpack, getting through half a chapter before the bell rang. From there, we went about the usual ritual of leaving the library, heading to our lockers, and reconvening at Maxxie’s car before she drove us home. We leapfrogged from one topic to another, as we often did, completely changing the topic at hand every three to five minutes.
After dropping off Zoe and Shiaka, she drove past my home and, per our agreement this morning, took me to the Flare household. A three-story house located in the ‘wealthiest’ section of our shared neighborhood.
“I’m HOOOOOOMMME!” Maxxie shouted as she opened up the door to her home.
For the record, this was Maxxie’s way of letting everyone in the house know that she brought guests over. Not that there were many people to hear her. Her parents, as per usual, were in another country on some business trip, and they wouldn’t be back until May. Meaning that this massive house was only home to Maxxie, her 11-year-old sister, Terra, and their caretaker Babs Pequot.
Speaking of which, as I hung up my jacket and backpack, Babs walked down the stairs, a muted smile on her face. She was a Hispanic woman with curly, shoulder-length charcoal hair, looked to be in her late twenties despite being 34, and stood a few centimeters shorter than me at 1.75 meters. Also, according to Maxxie, she ‘weighed 66 kay-gees that went into all the right places.’ As to be expected, she was dressed casually in a simple gray v-neck t-shirt and jeans. Nothing flashy, but her job didn’t demand anything more.
“Hey Maxxie. Hey Jad. How much of a bummer was school this time?”
“34 left to go and then we’re done, so it can’t be that bad,” I answered.
“Heh. 34,” Maxxie muttered to herself, no doubt thinking about Rule 34…
“So, Jad, you want anything special for dinner?”
“You know me, Babs. I’m down for just about anything, so whatever you were originally planning is fine.”
“I know, but it’s only polite to ask. By the way, Jad, everything is okay at your home right? Because if you need any help, I’m the woman you should ask.”
“Why do people think that I’m not able to live on my own?”
“Because you’re a teenage boy who’s lived with his momma his whole life? Most mothers spoil their sons, and while you’re better than most, you’re ten years too green to be a homemaker.”
“…Have you been checking my Tumblr again?” Maxxie asked Babs, her voice somber.
“If you don’t want me to find it, don’t put it on the internet. It’s public information and if I wanna read it, I will. Some of those memes you reblog are pretty funny. But most of them make absolutely no sense to me.”
“Well, tough luck, because I’m not going to explain them to you.”
“I didn’t ask, Maxxie. Besides, you have better things to do than explain youth culture to some MILF.”
“…It’s actually pretty hot when you say it. I approve!” Maxxie said, giving Babs a thumbs up.
“…Anyway, dinner will be ready around 18. In the meantime, you do… whatever it is you kids do up there.”
Maxxie muttered thanks as she darted up the stairs, and I followed her into her bedroom. With Maxxie’s bedroom, I always had an idea of what it was going to look like, but I never knew how much of a disaster it would be. Sometimes it was relatively clean, other times it seemed as if she was actively trying to make a mess of things. And today it was definitely the latter.
Clothes were scattered, packages were collected into a pile, and it looked like she emptied out one of her storage containers to rearrange her plushies and knick-knacks, and just sort of left them there. It was far from the biggest mess I’d seen, but it was something that demanded to be cleaned.
“…Was this all just a ploy to get me to come here and clean your room?”
“Would you believe me if I said I forgot that I forgot to tidy things up yesterday?”
“Yes,” I answered without a second of hesitation.
“…Would you please help me clean my room?”
“It wouldn’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last time.”
When it came to cleaning up after Maxxie, you had to think like Maxxie. You needed to try and follow her trail of logic as you retraced the steps she took in order to get her room into such a state. It was something I used to find some bizarre pleasure in, but now… it just reminded me of how I immersed myself into the role of Maxxie back in November. When I was in her body, cleaning her room, listening to her music. A shiver went through my being as I recalled the warmth I felt during that time… A warmth that I had not felt since.
Another ‘quirk’ to Maxxie was that whenever she said ‘help me clean my room,’ she meant ‘clean my room while I do some drawing.’ I casually looked over her shoulder to see her drawing one of the monsters from Bloodborne, using a model viewer to capture the finer details of the grotesque dog creature. I looked down at her hands as she did the line work, her pen darting across the screen as she stared at it intensely. Her dexterity was always impressive, and seeing her in her element like this reminded me of when I possessed such nimbleness. When I could move her hands with a comparable level of precision.
I shook my head as I found myself ruminating over the past yet again, and tried to focus on something else. And seeing as how a model was on the screen in front of me, I thought about Bloodborne. Specifically, what build I would use when I finally start playing the game. From what I heard, I couldn’t run a turtle-y strength and intelligence build like I did in Dark Souls. I would need to be aggressive, emphasizing strong or quick melee strikes and dodging over blocking. It was such a different style of play that I figured the best approach would be to wing it while starting off. Mostly focusing on upgrading health, until I got a better idea about what play style suited me the best.
As I continued to muse about similar matters, I managed to complete my task of cleaning Maxxie’s room… and saw that it was already 17:24. It took a while, but when I say clean her room, I mean clean it. Vacuuming, dusting, the works. Because even though Babs is the household maid, she makes Maxxie clean her own room… But more often than not, she just enlists me to do it instead.
With a light layer of sweat covering my body, I looked over at Maxxie as she immersed herself in her work. What I saw was a half-completed illustration of a vaguely humanoid wolf creature with strands of white hair coming off of her body. She was laying down on her back, spreading her legs to reveal her dog vagina, while placing her hands between her eight breasts. Breasts that were about 70% humanoid and 30% dog-like.
“Goldarn it Maxxie! Didn’t I tell you not to draw porn when I’m around?”
“Huh? Oh. Yeah. This wasn’t supposed to be porn, but I guess the lower brain kicked in and made the cool thing a cool and horny thing. Oopsie doodle!”
“This is why it’s dangerous to watch movies with you. We marathoned the Godzilla movies once when we were 8-years-old, but for some reason, you still remember that bit from Godzilla X Mechagodzilla.”
“Nah, GXMG was the 2002 one. You’re thinking of Godzilla ‘93. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II. …Yo! When we graduate, we’re going to have kaiju night for a whole darn month! Two to three movies a night!”
“Please put the furry porn away, Maxxie.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. The reptile brain got all excited by doggo oppais.”
Maxxie then closed out of Clip Studio Paint and pushed her drawing tablet to the side. While her room was a mess, her computer set-up was very deliberate. She had a large L-shaped desk with two monitors, a drawing tablet that could function as a third monitor, a Filco Majestouch keyboard, a pricey webcam, a mic that required its own audio interface, and a wall-mounted light.
All of this was in addition to a row of various figures she imported from Japan. Ranging from Akumako from K.O. Beast to Lucy to Nana from Elfen Lied to the OG magical girl Minky Momo. Though, she also had a clustered shelf of Nederoids too… It was excessive for a hobbyist streamer like herself, but it made her happy, and ‘filled her with inspiration.’
As I looked over this display, I remembered that I saw an HDMI switch in her pile of packages, and handed it to her.
“Is this for your set up?”
“Hm? Oh, yeah. I almost forgot about this. See, this is the first time I’ve actually started streaming on my PS4, so I had to disconnect the PS3, and I know I’m gonna switch between the two a bunch. Especially since Sony was all like ‘we don’t actually value a feature that was a staple for three generations, even though we have excessive experience with software emulation.’ I get that the PS2 is tricky to emulate, but not even PS1 games? That’s some high distilled Dirty McDirt if I’ve ever heard it.”
“You could just emulate PS2 games on your PC instead of using your fat PS3. It’s not like the PS3’s emulation is that great.”
“…Crud, that’s right. But PS3 emulation is out of the question, and I’m sure as heck not restarting Nier again! Actually, Jady-Jad, Maxxie has another request! Provide her with her packages and she’ll open them and put them in the correct places!”
As Maxxie said this, she tore open the HDMI switch box and dove down to the underside of her desk to do some wire management. I did as she asked, saving her the hassle of opening things by using the box cutter she kept in her room. Specifically a safety box cutter one because she one time messed up all the fingers on her left hand three years ago.
Her packages included dork stuff, streaming gear, a few articles of summery clothing, and things that she didn’t seem to even recognize, like a bag of sugar-free lollipops she ordered a month ago while pulling a late nighter. That ate about 20 minutes, and when we saw that it was 17:50, we decided to head down for dinner.
We arrived just as Babs was setting the smaller of the two dining tables. I had previously volunteered to help her set the table, but she always told me not to bother, saying that this was pretty much the easiest part of her job, anyway. Maxxie and I took our usual spots at the table, but before we could begin a conversation, I heard a set of small footsteps coming up to us, and looked to see Maxxie’s younger sister, Terra.
She was 11-years-old, about 1.4 meters tall, wearing a white dress and purple cardigan that fit nicely onto her lean prepubescent frame. Her black hair was just below her chin and accessorized with the silver dragonfly hairpin that I gave Maxxie about a decade ago. And much like Maxxie, her ancestry was all over the place, and that showed in her dark tan complexion.
She wore a look of surprise as she saw me, before shooting me a gentle smile, which I returned, gesturing for her to come sit with Maxxie and me.
Terra was transgender. She came out to her family back in December, but… I already knew she was trans before that. In a sense, I was the first person to know, as she came out to me in that other world, when I spent an evening in Maxxie’s body.
After coming out in this world, she started puberty blockers in January and has been seeing a specialist once a month. At home, she’s been presenting herself as female, steadily finding her true self in the process, but at school, she was still presenting as male. She had the option of coming out and explaining her situation to everyone, but fear of being ridiculed forced her to keep up a facade. At least until she started attending a new school in August.
She gently positioned herself into a chair, neatly folding her legs as she sat, while making an ‘mhm’ sound before she spoke. A technique she learned as part of her voice training.
“It’s nice to see you again, Jad. I didn’t know you were coming over for dinner tonight.”
“Oops!” Maxxie exclaimed “I guess I forgot to text you, Terra. Sorry about that.”
“We have a group chat for a reason, Maxxie,” Terra said, trying to sound sarcastic while speaking an octave higher than her default voice.
“Say, Terra, when is your last day of fifth grade again?” I asked, fishing for topics.
“Oh, it’s June 5th. So I still have another two months. Well, less than two months, if you want to look at it optimistically.”
“Yeah, sorry about that, girl,” Babs said as she walked in with a tray of food. “But don’t worry, we’re going to meet with the middle school in two weeks and everything is going to go great with your registration. And you don’t need to go in for field day or report card day if you don’t want to. So consider June 3rd the last time you ever need to go boy mode.”
As Babs reassured Terra, she passed out the contents of the tray, which consisted of a bowl of something I could not quite identify, on top of a plate containing a pita cut in half.
“Say, Babs, what exactly is this dish?” I asked before I looked at it too closely
“Um… I just call it an eggplant cauliflower stew. It has tomato, cumin, garlic, onions, lentils, rice, my own blend of spices, and obviously eggplant and cauliflower.”
“Oh, that sounds delicious,” I said before I put a spoonful into my mouth and confirmed that it was, in fact, delicious.
Babs has been preparing meals for Maxxie and Terra for their entire lives, and in that time, she has become very skilled in the art of cooking.
Alas, as I mixed the pita and stew together as I pleased, decorating my tongue in the rich flavor and textures, I was met with yet another set of months-old memories. Memories of the meals I ate in my friends’ bodies, and when I realized how insufficient my sense of taste truly was. Based on our casual experimentation, my mouth made everything taste blander than it should have been.
It was yet another way I was objectively worse than those I cared about. While I was able to forget this factoid when I was eating something different from my friends, Maxxie was eating the exact same thing as me. And I knew she was enjoying it on a level that I physically couldn’t.
I tried to push away my sorrow and enjoy the meal as best I could, making idle chatter with those around me, but mostly listening. After I finished, I brought my dishes into the kitchen, rinsing them before sliding them into the premium dishwasher, one that actually cleaned plastics. I took a moment to admire such a luxury appliance, before I heard Terra’s voice from the other side of the kitchen.
“Um, Jad… can I talk to you for a minute?”
She seemed concerned, not sad, but worried about something. Though, I failed to notice that before I responded to her.
“Yes, of course.”
Terra then walked away into the den area connected to the kitchen. I followed her, we sat on parallel armchairs, and she began by taking a deep breath.
“Jad… is everything alright with you?”
“W-What do you mean?” I stammered.
“Jad, ever since Christmas, I’ve noticed that there has been something… different about you. You’ve seemed a lot sadder and even now, you don’t seem to have gotten over whatever has gotten into you. Just at dinner, you looked like you liked the stew, but when you looked over at Maxxie… you got really sad. This is something that I’ve noticed a lot over the past few months. You just suddenly get sad when you are around others, and… I want to know if there is anything I can do to help you. Maxxie noticed it too, but said that she just wants to give you time, that you’ve always shared everything with her, no matter what. Though… I think this might be something bigger than whatever she’s imagining it is. Jad, please, you… you’re family to me, and I don’t like seeing you like this.”
As Terra spoke to me, I brought my hand to my mouth and shut my eyes. I should have known that I would have a confrontation like this at some point, yet I was not prepared for it. I did not want to lie to her. But I could not bear to tell her the full truth.
“Terra… Thank you for caring about me. Yes, something… happened to me around Christmas, and…”
As I struggled to find the words, I began to cry. I remembered the look on her face as I thrust my malformed body against her. The sound of her voice, bereft of any feminine cadence, as she begged for her life. Her father rushed to help her, but all he did was push her deeper into my being. If she knew the truth… she would hate me. No matter how good a person was, they would be unable to hate their killer for ending their life in such a gruesome and surreal manner.
If she knew that she spent a day in the bodies of Shiaka and Maxxie… would she ever be satisfied with her body as a trans girl? A body that, while modified by hormonal therapy, would always harbor maleness, would always be at risk of devolving into a form that she despised, and would be unable to bear children.
Why… Why did I want to keep these memories? Why did I deny myself such power? Why did I push Verde away? Why was I so weak next to Abigale Quinlan? Why… Why was I even alive? If I were dead… these memories would be gone. I would be gone. I would not need to live with this daily aggravation. I could do it now. I had steeled myself. I had tasted death before. And… I could do it again. Take a hammer to my head and bash it again, and again, and again.
I might not be able to kill myself. But if I were to bleed out in my bathtub, over the course of 12 hours, then chances are that I would perish before anyone could find me… But then Maxxie would see my body, and… I could not do that to her. I could not taint her memory of me with such vileness. …Even if it was preferable to the vileness of the untold reality. I would just need to kill myself another way. Someplace secluded. Someplace obscure, or if I wasn’t such a fucking pussy, I could just jump from a building and die with my body crushed against the pavement below. It would be quick, the force would kill me before I could recognize the pain, it would—
As I sunk deeper and deeper into the comforting thoughts of suicide, I felt someone grab onto me, pressing their body against mine, and placing a hand on my head. Based on the sound of their sobs, it was Terra.
“Jad, I’m sorry. Please, don’t force yourself to tell me if it’s… uncomfortable. Just know that… I’ll try to be there for you.”
I was being comforted by an 11-year-old girl wracked with dysphoria, struggling to find her own identity. Whatever pride I placed in my maturity and masculinity was shouting at me for such a display of weakness, for failing to live up to my role as Terra’s ‘big brother.’
“I’m sorry. I… I love you Terra. But this is something that I cannot share with anyone. Not you, not Maxxie, not my mother. If I did, it would… destroy the image of me that you have in your head.”
Terra looked at me, her sadness briefly morphing into frustration. She wanted me to feel comfortable enough to share everything with her, but this… was beyond her wildest imagination. It was beyond explanation. At least, that’s what I feared.
As I lowered my face away from Terra’s gaze, I heard Maxxie’s voice ring throughout my ears.
“Jad… No matter what is going on, no matter what happened, I will still care for you. I will still love you. You’re one of my favorite people in the world, and even if you did something awful… I know you did not want to do it. I know how much of a goody two-shoes you are, and even if you did something really bad, like waste your entire college fund, or do something that permanently disabled someone, I know you’d have a reason.”
I had an opportunity to come clean, to confess my sins… but he decided to butt in.
“Yeah, J-Diya. Go and tell them how much you loved being in Maxxie’s body, how you want to claim it for yourself. How you hate yourself and wish that you could be her. Because that’s totally the sort of thing she’s thinkin’ ‘bout when she says ‘anything.’ Oh, better yet, start with how you became a rapist, and LOVED IT. C’mon, show the world the nasty boy that you is!”
“Fucking Peatrice…” I muttered under my breath.
“Jad,” Maxxie said, embracing me in a hug. “Take all the time you need. I’ll always be there for you.”
“Just…” I said as I left Maxxie’s embrace, “let me have more time to process what I want to say. It’s… hard for me to come to terms with these things. And… it might be easier to explain if I wrote it down. I’m sorry, I think I need to head home now. I’ll see you later Terra, I’ll see you tomorrow Maxxie, and… tell Babs thank you for dinner. It… slipped my mind when I left with my dishes.”
I left the den and returned to the front door, where I threw on my jacket and backpack before leaving the front door. I moved quickly, and they did not try to stop me.
I took a deep breath as I began the four-block-long walk to my house. The air was rich with pollen, the wind was mild, and the temperature had risen over the past two and a half hours. I unzipped my jacket as I walked, allowing it to flap against the wind.
“She’s right. This cannot continue. This has been going on for over 100 days. 108 days. And I am obsessive enough to count. Why… am I like this? I… I know there is more to this but I… I don’t want to. …I need to write my story, but—”
In an instance, it felt like a vise had been erected around my head and tightened hard enough to crack my skull. I fell toward a nearby tree, and my body slid into the grassy road verge. I worried that death was near but, just as this sensation came, it faded. The pressure left my head, yet it left a headache. One that was getting worse by the second.
“Oh… Oh god, what was that?” I asked myself, sitting on the ground while clenching my temples.
While a soreness perpetuated through my head, it did not feel like it was connected to anything else. I did not think it was a seizure or stroke, as I could still move all my fingers and speak without difficulty, but I was still far more careful as I finished walking home.
By the time I was inside, the headache had passed the peak of intensity and was becoming more of a numb throbbing. I tried to pinpoint the source of this sudden headache, and realized that I had gone nearly seven hours without drinking any water. I didn’t even think to drink anything at dinner. I then opened up my backpack, fished for my half-liter water bottle, and saw that I had only drunk maybe four sips from it.
“Damn it! Right, right, it’s almost summer, so hydration is extra important.”
I then chugged the lukewarm water bottle from my lunch box, rinsed out my lunch container, and headed upstairs.
By the time I was upstairs, my headache was worse than ever. It must have been the change in elevation. I quickly realized that I could not brush aside as I went on with my evening and needed to be addressed immediately. After a quick stop to my bedroom, I went to the shower, hoping that the steam and hot water would make the aching go away.
The act of showering, and bathing in general, is something that I have never looked forward to. While I was generally fine with my own naked body, because it was mine, something about being wet and naked in the bathroom unnerved me, ever so slightly. Maybe it was because of that time when Bryce had to ‘take a shit’ while I was taking a bath at age 6. Or maybe it’s from when Maxxie tried to shower with me back when I was 11. But no narrative I could piece together fully satisfied me.
Regardless, I had turned showering into a science, one where I was in and out within about five minutes, not including my shaving. While I never had to worry about shaving my facial hair for the rest of my life, after I subjected myself to the hellish experience known as electrolysis, I shaved the rest of my person. For my arms and public area, it was every day. For my armpits and legs, it was about every week. It was unusual, neurotic, but the feeling of hairs growing on my skin always bothered me. …I still remember how I used to cut my leg hair with safety scissors back in middle school.
Regardless, this time, I tried to take things slower, washing my thick brown hair twice, and letting the room become filled with steam, before turning off the water. With the mirror fogged up, I dried myself while looking off into space, before examining my arms and legs. I had shaved Saturday night, so my leg hairs were too short to be visible, but long enough to be felt when brushing a hand across my skin.
I sighed as I looked down at my lean body, housing a slight amount of muscle, but generally being flat and boxy. I could feel my mind bringing up the sight of Maxxie or Abigale’s body, but I shook my head as those thoughts crept in. Instead, I wiped away the condensation from the mirror and looked at myself. My pale skin, green eyes, and short brown hair. This was my body. And while I was once in a world where it was possible to change that… those worlds were lost to me.
As I dressed myself in my pajamas, I realized that my headache had, indeed, gone away. With this worry off my mind, I made my way to my bedroom. But before I could do more than check my usual sites, my phone rang, displaying my mother’s name, Caroline Steticks, and the current time, 19:23.
“Isn’t it past midnight in Europe?” I asked as I accepted the call.
“Hey sweetie,” my mother answered with her soft voice. “It’s actually past 2 here in Deutschland. I tried calling you after school, but you didn’t pick up.”
As we talked, I checked my missed calls, and saw that she called me at 16:16, when I was cleaning Maxxie’s bedroom.
“S-Sorry about that, Mother. I wasn’t expecting you to call then, and I was busy helping Maxxie with something.”
“I know, Babs told me as much. So, how was school after your big break?”
“Oh, nothing special. It’s just going to be the same old same old another thirty-some-odd times until it’s all over.”
“I know it can be repetitive, but make sure you make the most of your high school days,” she said with a solemn tone.
I sighed as I remembered my mother’s schooling situation. She was only 35-years-old and dropped out of high school after her sophomore year, because she was pregnant with me. She later got her GED while I was a baby, but she always felt like she missed out on a ‘proper’ high school experience. As such, I tried to avoid talking badly about high school to her… while still trying to be honest.
“Don’t worry, Mother. I’ll make the most of it.”
“I’m sure you will, and then you’ll graduate, be off to college… aren’t you excited?” My mother said, yawning as she spoke.
“Yeah, I’m excited for something different,” I said, a false passion in my voice.
“You know… it’s hard to believe. That my precious little one is finally going off to college. That you’re finally an adult. It all feels like it’s happened so fast.”
It was nice that she saw me as an adult, because I sure didn’t feel like one, doing the same things I’ve been doing since I was 14…
“Well, even if I’m going to be an adult, I’m still going to be your son, you’re going to still be my mother, and we’re going to stick together.”
“Jad… don’t make promises like that. I don’t want to anchor you for the rest of your life.”
“I know, but I don’t want you to be alone either. Besides, it’s easier if we rely on each other than try to make due on our own.”
“…I’m so glad that you turned out the way you did.”
She did not say it, but I knew she was comparing me to Bryce. I did not want to talk about that man, so I began wrapping up this call.
“Well, Mother, I’ll let you get back to sleep, and I’ll make sure I’m available for a call at around 16:00, 16:30, tomorrow.”
“I’ll talk to you then Jad, good night.”
As the call ended, I checked the messages on my phone, and saw that my mother sent me a few photos of her time in Cologne, Germany. They were mostly photos of buildings, tourist attractions, and her meals, which she kept a record of for cooking inspiration. But what caused me to pause was a selfie she took of herself.
She cut her blonde hair short prior to her trip, her fair complexion looked slightly darker due to the amount of traveling she had been doing over the past week, and her hazy blue eyes were staring directly at the camera. She was dressed lightly, wearing a blue v-neck that showed off her cleavage and beige shorts that gripped her lower body. It was probably not the best photo she should have sent to her son, as she looked closer to a college-aged girl than a 35-year-old woman.
I was happy to see her happiness immortalized in a photo like this, showing a true smile, instead of the false smile she wore for so many years. Though, it only made me wish that… no. I did not wish for her to be here. This was what made her the happiest, and I was glad she was enjoying herself. Besides, it’s not like I was more comfortable letting her in on my sins.
I groaned as I remembered what I told myself to do as I left Maxxie’s house. I would need to write down what happened to explain it to everyone. But… it was already past 19:30. I did not feel the desire to start writing, and felt that I should spend my evening doing something to make me happy, instead of wallowing in misery.
I looked passively at my copy of Bloodborne, still wrapped in the shrinkwrap, mostly because I wanted to preserve its new game smell. I could join the bandwagon and get started now… but I simply was not in the mood for a horror-themed Souls game at the moment.
Instead, I wanted something simple, so I just whipped out my 3DS and played a bit of BoxBoy! after Shiaka praised the game last week. I lasted about an hour on this puzzle platformer romp before my eyes started drooping. Looking at my clock, it was not even 21:00. It was early enough that I could still try to do things, but I felt too tired to focus on anything. So, with nothing better to do, I went about my usual bedtime ritual before nestling under my blankets and falling asleep within seconds.
The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan Main Page
Shard 00: The Novus Logs Volumes 1 & 2
Shard 01: 108 Days Later
Shard 02: Melancholic Mundanity
Shard 03: Another Day; Another Doubt
Shard 04: Fractured Family
Shard 05: Troublesome Tuesday
Shard 06: Despair And Die
Shard 07: The Enigmatic Sickness
Shard 08: The Erotic Fantasy (Osananajimi;Myself Part 3700)
Shard 09: The Egregious Downfall
Shard 10: The Oransen High Massacre
Shard 11: The Dark Metamorphosis
Shard 12: The Dominant Reflection
Shard 13: My Life As Jadigale Novus
Shard 14: Fade Unto Dusk
Shard 15: Re;Birth Unto Jade
Shard 16: Gender Reveal Party
Shard 17: Enter The Three Wives (Psycho Bullet Festival 2222 – Bout 21-2)
Shard 18: Novus X – Ten Years Later