Autumn Wind Pt. 02

Amateur

Chapter 20: The DARKNESS

Describing the nighttime sea as ‘dark’ does a disservice to dark things. There is darkness in the pit of a well, but that darkness is betrayed by the well opening— an escape route back into the light. Darkness exists in the long hallway at night, though it is banished with the flick of a switch. Even the vast expanse of space is lit by stars. But after the sun sets on a stormy sea, there is nothing. The hope of starlight is muted by the angry clouds above, and any sense of bearing a person might have is lost as they are tossed at the mercy of the waves. There is no end in sight. There is only darkness.

And a raft. The raft that Autumn now sat in as it was tossed about in the incomprehensible darkness. Rain and salty spray assaulted her frozen-numb face as she tried to close her eyes from the pelting force. Though, try as she might, she could not tell whether they were truly closed. It was simply too dark.

Pain shot up her hand as she felt a nail tear off against the splintery wood of the boat, but her cry was drowned by the sea of noises surrounding her. In spite of the pain, she gripped the vessel all the harder. When would this end? Where was the light? Wasn’t there supposed to be light somewhere? Or was it just… gone? She tasted salt, but didn’t know if it came from the sea. Then, something shifted. As if she’d been viewing the whole world sideways all this time and now suddenly she was looking at it straight on.

It began with a voice. It had been hours since she’d last been able to hear even her own thoughts, yet she could hear something now. Somebody calling her. She opened her eyes.

Across the seat from her was a man her age. She didn’t know how she knew without being able to see him, but she did. In fact, she knew everything about him. She knew he was a few inches taller than she was. She knew that he was afraid to be there as well. She knew if either of them could let go of the raft for only a moment, they’d embrace each other.

She knew he loved the taste of lemon and of creamy treats, just like she did. She knew his passions and that they were so similar to hers. She could read the tired lines she knew darkened his brow and knew that they were not at his expense. They were for her. She knew his name.

“Ethan?” Whispered Autumn, her voice miraculously clear in the night.

“It’s me, Autumn.” His voice felt reassuring.

“But why? Why are you here?”

“I’ve always been here.” His voice broke and she felt something break inside her, too.

“No, you haven’t.” Spite ripped from her throat. “You left me here. You left me in this storm.”

He shook his head.

“You left me, Ethan.” She spat out through gritted teeth. “Alone in this storm.

“No…”

“I’ve been alone,” she whimpered, “so alone.”

Ethan was crying now, tears streaming down his cheeks. “No. Autumn, I’ve never left you alone in this storm. You are this storm. And you’re going to kill us.”

What? The unspoken question was written clearly on her face.

“You’ve been trapped in here, Autumn. I never left you, not once.” His eyes reflected his pain as he searched for the words. “I just couldn’t take you with me.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Because now I can.” Thunder crashed above them like the roar of heaven and a different fear overcame Ethan’s features. He spoke again, yelling even though their voices were clear. “You have to come with me now, Autumn. You can’t stay here.”

“But it’s all I’ve known. It’s all I have.”

“No, it’s not.” And then Ethan let go of the boat and stood. Legs that trembled from more than just uneven footing forced their way across the short distance between them and Autumn could tell that his hand was being held out toward her. Then she heard the words she needed to hear.

“You have me.”

She placed her hand in his own and he pulled her up to wrap his arms around her, just as she did the same to him. And then Autumn felt something— warmth, radiating from their embrace— and smiled for the first time in a long while.

It wasn’t light, but it was a start.

Then another voice called out to her and Ethan. A voice from Outside. It was feminine, like hers, but different. Ethan recognized it, though, and she felt his grin against her cheek.

“I want you to meet some new friends. They’re going to help us, okay?”

“Okay.” She whispered.

And then they were gone.

Chapter 21: The FIREFLY FIELDS

Autumn opened her eyes, letting the light in. The warmth of Samantha’s shoulder felt welcoming on her cheek and the sounds of the TV fireplace helped to pull her back into the present. A yawn forced its way past her lips and she snuggled in closer to her girlfriend.

“Girl, but you are a fucking mess, aren’t you?”

The voice caught her by surprise and she opened her eyes. Hadn’t she just been hearing that voice in her dream? Who was—

Holly sat in front of them on the coffee table, though she looked different. She still niğde escort looked like the waitress from the restaurant, but… younger. Less mature, like she was in her mid to late teens. Straight brown hair rested on her shoulders and down her back. Dark-purple pajama pants patterned with witches, stars and jack-o-lanterns covered her legs and she wore a black tank top that revealed the sun-warmed skin on her tanned arms. For all the world, she looked like any other 17-year-old waking up in the morning. Except for her eyes. Those violet pools would look more fitting on one of the witches decorating her clothes, and the empathy in her gaze was more like that of a caring grandmother than a tired teenager.

Warm fingers brushed Autumn’s bare cheek as Holly leaned forward. They tucked her hair behind her ear in a soothing gesture and she was surprised to find Holly’s animated tears sparkled with glitter. But why was she crying? She hadn’t been the one with the nightmare…

The nightmare. That’s where she’d heard Holly’s voice. Holly’s voice, and…

Ethan sat up with a jolt, heart racing. Samantha barely even stirred next to him as he jumped off the couch, putting his dainty, unfamiliar, manicured hands on this new body, feeling the way his soft sweater sat over the curves.

“Ethan, sit down.” Said Holly, who was now standing in front of him and motioning to the chair.

But Ethan couldn’t hear her past the pounding in his ears. What had happened? How did…? Who…? What…?

He almost tripped as he stepped off the carpet onto the tile. Everything was uneven. His steps felt wrong and his vision was going dark and the room was spinning and his body was moving in the wrong way and everything was bigger and now that chair was a lot bigger and then it was a lot closer and then he wasn’t in the room anymore.

——

Ethan sat on a white chair in a white train station, wearing white clothes on his own body. A soothing note hung in the air, played by an invisible cello somewhere down the infinite hall. He knew he should be concerned that he was somewhere not Samantha’s house, but he wasn’t. No longer did his ears ring or his heart pound. The body he wore was old and familiar, but… it also didn’t feel quite right. It felt okay, the way store-bought bread tastes after having had fresh, homemade sourdough. Like an acceptable loss— but a definitive loss.

The hanging note was now accompanied by the echoing sound of approaching footsteps. Two pairs of footsteps coming from behind. Ethan turned and saw Holly walking toward him, except she looked different. She looked like his mother, dressed in her Sunday dress. Her gray-streaked curly hair flowed freely down her back, and the sound of her sandals echoed in the halls. Beside her walked Autumn, wearing a white blouse tucked into white jeans, her purple hair a strange contrast in the heavenly train station. Pearly heels that were strangely silent sat on her feet. She looked around and said, “Very Harry Potter-ey.”

Ethan stood and turned toward them, the chair disappearing from where it had been. “Autumn?”

“In the spirit.” Said Holly with a kindly smile that Ethan remembered so well. “We needed somewhere where the two of you could talk.”

“So is this all in my head?”

“Of course it is,” said Autumn, a smile playing at the corner of her mouth, “but why should that mean it’s not real?”

Ethan found himself grinning. “Very nice.”

“You are the same person, after all.” Said Holly. With a wave of her fingers an armchair appeared next to her and she sat down, motioning to the two of them to follow.

Ethan didn’t know what to do, but after he watched Autumn cautiously wave her hand in the air, making a chair of her own design appear, he followed suit. They sat in a small triangle, all facing inward. He didn’t know what to say.

“Do you remember the ocean?” asked Autumn in a quiet whisper. “Where you found me?”

“The ocean?” Ethan had trouble thinking until the memory flooded back in to him. A memory of darkness and of cold and then of warmth. Then he remembered. “Holly sent me there. To find you.”

The AI said nothing, only nodding.

“I was alone until you came for me.” Said Autumn shakily. “You don’t know, but it was horrible because you would come for me occasionally. You would appear, and we would be close, and then you would leave.”

Ethan tried to understand what she was talking about. Now that he sat here in front of Autumn, there was no more denying this side of him was as real as he was. She wasn’t a figment like Holly, or a dream. He knew it deep within his heart that Autumn was him, and that she was her.

He knew the times when he would toy with that side of himself. When he would fall asleep wishing he was her, or when he’d start a new save file on a game, playing as her. The way he would eye a pretty dress with more than an appreciative eye and wonder how it might look on her… But he’d never been able to wear them. The simple ordu escort fact was that he was a boy. Did he want to be a girl? Had he perhaps always wanted to be a girl? He could admit it to himself now, yes. Yes. He had. But— being a girl wasn’t an option for him.

There were surgeries and hormone treatments, but those would change who he was, and he didn’t want that. He never fell asleep thinking about becoming a girl. He fell asleep dreaming of life as a girl. Sharing in the upbringing that his cousins did. Going through school and having friends with other girls. Making it to his job and kicking ass as a photographer as a girl. He knew now.

That was Autumn.

“I know,” he whispered, “and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t stay.” Slowly, he forced himself to meet her eyes. “It would have killed me, Autumn. It would have killed us. And I’m sorry.”

The following silence was the worst he’d felt since he’d stood at that podium years ago, trying to find words to commemorate the woman who sat across from him and Autumn. It was loaded with everything that could never be said, but that was so easily known and felt. And, much like that day, someone had come to his rescue.

“Ethan,” said Holly, addressing both of them, “I’m truly sorry for the sorrows that you have suffered over the years. But self-hate won’t do anything for you, and you both know that.” She met both of their eyes before continuing. “And I know that I’m here talking to the two of you, trying to help mediate this situation, but the truth of the matter is that you, Ethan, and you, Autumn, are the same being.” She turned to him and spoke three simple truths. “You are not happy as a man. You’ve always wanted to be Autumn. Now you have the ability and the opportunity to live as her.” Her arms raised in a questioning motion.

“Is that why you brought us here?” Autumn asked.

“Not quite. Kind of, though.” Holly sighed and shifted her appearance again, this time back to the teenage version of the waitress. “I had to do this because Samantha had unwittingly turned Ethan into you, Autumn, and trapped away the more male-side of his identity. If that had continued for long… well, you saw what happens to either of you when you’re alone. Except Ethan would have eventually returned to consciousness, and you’d be trapped again. The two of you only exist together, and cannot exist apart, and without the two of you meeting like this, you might have gone mad.”

Ethan met Autumn’s eyes and recognized the look that hid there. It was hope. She understood as well as he did that they finally had their chance to live— and it had been made very clear to them exactly what it cost them when they were apart. Because he was her. She was who he wanted to be, and he didn’t have to hide that any longer.

“Autumn.”

“Ethan.”

They spoke at the same time as they reached out and took each other by the hand, and then they were one.

Autumn looked down at her body, happy tears starting to come to her eyes. She felt the way her soft blouse tickled at her tummy, and the way her ankles balanced in her heels. This body that had felt so clumsy and alien to her when she’d woke up as only Ethan trapped in it now felt like home.

Giggles of joy reverberated through the glowing white station as she danced in place, rubbing strands of purple hair through her fingers and then feeling her arms, shoulders, breasts, the curves of her hips catching her hands mid-motion. Looking over her shoulder, she saw her ass and, biting her lip, she grabbed it with both hands and squeezed.

Holly’s laughter hung in the air like twinkling stars and she waved her hand, transforming the station into a twilit field filled with fireflies. An unrealistically curved moon lit the white flowers around Autumn as she danced and explored herself.

She stripped off her shirt, marveling at how beautiful she was in the moonlight. Her tanned skin seemed to glow like the fireflies, and she giggled again when one came and landed between her breasts.

Next came her heels and her pants, and she ran through the fields, pausing only to rub at her calves and at her thighs, or to marvel at how tiny her feet were. Eventually she found a small pond with a bank of sand that she could lie down on, and she did. She felt the sand in her hair and the way her breasts weighed down on her and rested against her arms when she laid all the way back, and she smiled. The once-clear moon was obscured by her tears, but she was too comfortable to rub them away. She was exactly where she was supposed to be.

Soft footfalls came closer and soon Holly was sitting next to her, though this time she looked like Just Ethan.

He smiled at her. “You look happy.”

Autumn closed her eyes and smiled.

“If I said you looked sexy, would that be incestual or masturbatory?”

An unexpected bout of laughter exploded from the prone girl. After she got control of herself she turned on her side and faced him, her hip digging into the cool sand. “I rize escort think it would simply be true,” she said, offering Holly a wink.

“You’re telling me.” Holly grumbled as he sat down next to Autumn. They sat there for a while, both admiring her body and the cool, blue water in front of them.

“Holly?”

“Yes?”

“What will change when I go back?”

“Everything. And nothing.”

“How could nothing change?”

“Well, you haven’t changed. Just the world’s perception of you. And, luckily for you, you have the best support system in the world.”

Pictures of Samantha danced in front of Autumn’s eyes. Oh, shit… she’s going to be… what? Eight inches taller than me, now?

“Closer to nine, but who’s counting.” Teased Holly. “But, before you get too far, you need to be fair and honest with yourself, because this,” he motioned up and down Ethan’s body, “isn’t going away. Pieces of you, Ethan, are still in there. Pieces that existed apart from Autumn, and that you’ll have to deal with. Whether they’re emotions, preferences, or real-world ramifications, they’ll be there, and you’ll have to work through them.”

“Like what?” Autumn frowned, a bit of the bliss slipping away from her grasp.

“Well, your job, for instance. You’ll have to figure out your work situation. It shouldn’t be too difficult for us to replace ‘Ethan’,” he made quotation marks with his fingers, “with you. But there are more changes than that.”

“Like?”

“You’re bi, Autumn. You’re going to like men. And, being Samantha’s girlfriend, you’re probably going to have to deal with all sorts of fun, fucked up things like high libido and the like. How are you going to feel going to work and imagining sucking the dicks of your former coworkers? People that you’ve seen naked at the gym before? Etc.? What will your first time be—”

“Okay, okay!” Autumn sat up in one smooth motion and shivered. She’d never been sexually attracted to men before, but even as Holly spoke, she could tell that she was. With a deep breath she said, “I get it. Take things slow.”

“Exactly.” And then he gave her a devious little smile.

“What?!”

“Samantha won’t want to take things slow.”

Autumn shot him an accusatory glare. “Samantha absolutely has to take things slow. She owes me.”

“And you owe her. She did win a pair of Wars on you, remember?”

A singularly new sensation began to build in her belly that felt not dissimilar from butterflies— except that it was also hot. As she remembered Samantha stuck in her living room, bent over at the waist as an imaginary cock drove its way in and out of her sopping pussy, she felt a stirring of her own and realized that she was getting wet. When she met Holly’s eyes, she knew he could tell.

“Are you ready to go back, yet?”

Autumn looked around at her pristine pool and shook her head. “Just one last thing.”

She turned over on the sand and crawled slowly over to the reflecting pool where she looked at herself, making sure to move her hips for Holly along the way, but… when she saw herself? All thoughts of joking went away. She was beautiful. And she was whole.

“Now I’m ready.” She whispered as a single tear dripped from her cheek into the still water, casting ripples that seemed to grow and grow until they distorted everything in powerful waves that rippled in the air and along her skin.

——

And when the ripples had disappeared, she found herself lying on the floor in Samantha’s living room where she had fallen. Despite the fact that she’d fallen, she didn’t feel hurt or dizzy or anything.

“That’d be me.” Holly— now the teenage waitress again— peered around the chair that Autumn had tripped over and waved. “You kinda lost it when you woke up last time and, well…” she looked back and forth at her hands, “I’m not corporeal. But the nanites healed that little cut on your head while we were away.”

Autumn sat up and paused when she saw how much larger the chair was than she remembered it being the night before. Sure, it was the same size as it had been when she’d walked in the room this morning, but she hadn’t realized she’d been shrunk several inches.

After a moment she finished standing up and looked around. The fireplace still played on the TV, though a late-afternoon glare peaked in through the open blinds and discolored the picture. She licked her lips haphazardly and quickly realized that they were still sensitive. Knowing that wasn’t the only feature Samantha had changed, she quickly took stock of her body and clothing.

She was still wearing the lacy, no-show thong under her gray yoga pants, and she still fell in love with her oversized pink sweater when she looked at it draped over her, and when she pulled at the collar and looked down she could see that her breasts were a full cup size larger than she’d had while in the firefly fields. That made her smile.

What made her smile more was the sight of Samantha still asleep on the couch.

“I may have kept her unconscious while you worked through all of that…” Holly said quietly, “But she can wake up now.”

“Holly,” Autumn thought, moving over to sit on the couch by Samantha, “I don’t know whether to think of you as my mom or as the devil.”

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