A Cooning together of Truths
A Cooning together of Truths.
Tim and Steve strolled down the street.
"What number did the sign say the garage sale was at?" Tim asked.
"3068. Let's see," Steve said as he looked at the numbers of the houses. "2675 ... 2677."
"Great, at this rate we'll be there by this time next week," Tim said.
"You're the one that wanted to look there for a new mirror. How did yours get broken?"
"My kid brother Mark and his friend were playing baseball inside the house. Can you believe it? Anyway, let's just say that Mark hit a line drive right into the mirror."
"Oy; that must have been a pain in the ass to clean up," Steve said.
"You could say that. It took me an hour to get the glass out of the carpet."
"How did Mark react?" Steve asked.
"He was surprised but then didn't seem to care. He said he didn't want to cut himself as an excuse to get out of helping me with the clean up before running off," Tim replied.
Steve shook his head. "Let's hope that kid never ends up working on a military base. He'd end up nuking us after slipping on a puddle of water he created playing with a water gun."
Tim shook his head, trying to stifle a laugh.
"Why not just get a new mirror from the store?" Steve asked.
"I'm not made of money. Besides, maybe they'll have something else for a good deal," Tim answered.
"Good point. Let's see, 2700 ... 2702, we're getting there."
"Yeah, in a year or two."
They arrived at the house soon after. The proprietors had set out several tables. People were looking through the contents of each table. Tim noticed that they had some furniture on the lawn that was for sale. Much to his elation, he spotted a large mirror between a leather chair and a coffee table.
Walking over to the mirror, Tim looked at his reflection and felt strange. For a few seconds, it felt as though he was looking at a different version of himself. He could almost remember a different life and world. Instead of choosing option A, he'd chosen B. Instead of taking history, he'd taken law. The sensation was both frightening and fascinating at the same time.
Shaking his head, Tim didnít want to indulge in this. He had a feeling that if he did, heíd end up turning his brown hair as grey as his eyes.
"Talk about luck; that's perfect!" Steve said.
"Yeah," Tim replied, his tone hushed.
"What's wrong?" Steve asked.
Tim shook his head. "Thereís something weird about this mirror."
Steve shook his head. "Come on, we didn't come this far to walk away empty handed! What's wrong with it?"
"It's like the mirror showed me a different version of myself," Tim said.
"It's a mirror; not a portal to another world. Weíre not looking at alternate versions us who are thinking the same thing," Steve said.
"How do you know?"
"Well for one, neither of our reflections have goatees."
"Never mind," Steve said. Scratching his short red hair, Steve sighed. "Well, if that's an alternate version of both of us then I should be able to touch myself."
"Iím sure youíd just love that, " Tim said with a roll of his eyes.
Steve shot Tim a look before reaching forward. Steveís reflection did the same. He sighed in relief when his hand touched the mirror and nothing happened.
"See, it's just a mirror."
Tim shrugged his shoulders. "Sorry, I thought, I dunno what I thought. Something about the mirror just seemed off."
"Well, do you want to just forget it then?" Steve asked.
Tim looked at the mirror again; the feeling had subsided. "No, let's get it."
"I'll go find someone," Steve said.
When Steve walked off, Tim again looked into the mirror. The feeling returned albeit weaker. Steve returned a few minutes later with a guy that Tim assumed was the owner of the house.
"Ah yes, that mirror," the owner said.
"That mirror?" Tim asked.
"We're selling it because we're getting a new mirror that goes with the new wallpaper."
"I ... see. How much?" Tim asked.
"How about twenty-five dollars?" the man said.
If Tim were a cartoon character, heíd have done a double take. "Are you sure?"
The man nodded. "Iím in a generous mood today."
Tim reached into his pocket, retrieved his wallet and paid the man.
"Thank you," the man said.
"So, how are we going to get this thing to your place?" Steve asked.
"How much for that raccoon statue?" a teen behind Steve asked.
"Pardon me gentlemen. Thank you for your purchase," the man before walking off.
"I guess we'll carry it," Tim replied.
"That's going to be fun," Steve said.
Steve took one end of the mirror and Tim the other. The walk back to Tim's house involved much grunting. The mirrorís weight added time to the walk. When they got to Tim's house, they walked it up his stairs and to his room, placing it in place of the old one. Tim looked at it, admitting it looked good.
"What do you think?" Tim asked.
"Looks good," Steve replied. Steve gazed into the mirror. He seemed to stare off into space for several seconds. "Hmmm."
"What?" Tim asked.
"Come on, tell me!" Tim demanded.
"It was weird, for a second, it was as if I was looking at another version of myself," Steve said.
"Now who's the crazy one?" Tim asked.
"It must be our imaginations. I still don't see goatees on our faces," Steve.
Tim rolled his eyes. "That joke is getting old."
"Sorry. Well, if it's creeping you out, we can always return it," Steve said.
"No, I don't want to lug that thing again. My arms are sore enough as it is!"
"All right. Well, I have to get going. I'll see you later."
Tim nodded and Steve departed.
* * *
Later that evening, Tim relaxed on the couch reading the help wanted section of the newspaper while watching TV. He skimmed through the ads, seeing that most wanted experience he didn't have and/or involved re-locating, something he didn't have the money to do.
He was about to give up hope when he spotted a potential hit. A company was looking for people to dress as mascots for commercials to help sell some of their products. Tim was a little unsure of it but decided to read the posting. The company sold various products including food and vitamins for kids. They used various cartoon animals for their products.
"I'm crazy for looking into this but what do I have to lose?"
He decided to call Steve, who had a job but was looking. Perhaps they could apply together.
After picking up the telephone, he dialled. Steve picked up after two rings. "Hello?"
"Hey, do you still have a copy of the paper?" Tim asked.
"I think so," Steve replied.
"Look at the bottom left hand corner of page 4 of the help wanted section."
Tim waited as Steve put the telephone down and retrieved his paper. He heard the rush of the papers a minute later.
"Okay, I see it; the mascot one? Isn't that stuff a little ... weird?"
"Well, yeah, but it does say that it pays well. We act like idiots for some commercials. We'll be in costumes so no one will know it's us. Besides, one of their mascots is a raccoon. I know you like raccoons."
"True. Well, I guess it's worth a try. The worst they can say is no."
After hanging up, Tim called the number. There was no one there. However, they gave a website to apply from. Tim went to the website and filled out the application. Most of the questions were the usual ones one would expect, although there were a few about his favourite colours and foods, which he thought unusual. After filling the application, Tim sent it away.
* * *
After spending a few days doing his usual activities, Tim received a call to come in for an interview the next day. Afterwards, he called Steve, who apparently received a similar call. They'd scheduled his interview only thirty minutes after they'd planned Steve. Tim knew that would make it almost impossible to get advice from Steve.
Tim shrugged his shoulders, "oh well, how hard can this interview be?"
Several of Timís attempts to duplicate the effects of the mirror over those days hadnít worked so Tim was convinced it was safe.
The next morning, Tim was getting ready for the interview. After dressing in his suit, he stood in front of the mirror, this time receiving the unsettling feeling from it.
"Man, are you looking at your reflection again?" It was Mark, Tim's younger brother whoíd broken the first mirror.
"Hey, if you didn't break my other mirror, I wouldnít have had to get a new one. You're lucky you didn't get seven years bad luck!"
"It was an accident!"
"How is playing baseball in the house an accident?" Tim asked.
Tim looked back into the mirror. For a second he swore the reflection of his brother was different somehow. It was as though the reflection regretted smashing the other mirror.
"Um ... it ... um ... gotta go!" the kid said before running off.
Tim shook his head, took one last look at his reflection and headed downstairs.
The bus ride to his interview lasted about 35 minutes. When he arrived, he saw an upscale five-story building. Cars filled the parking lot and people in suits loitered by the front doors. Some drank coffee while others smoked. Tim walked to the front doors, nodding to each of them as he passed by them.
Inside the lobby of the building, he approached the desk where a secretary was sitting.
"Hi, my name is Tim, I'm here for an interview at 12:45 with a Don Adams."
The young woman looked at Tim and smiled. "Ah yes, Tim. You must be here about the mascot position, welcome. Would you like something to drink?"
Tim shrugged his shoulders, "Sure, I wouldnít mind a glass of water"
The attendant smiled, nodded, stood up and walked out of the room. She returned a minute later with a glass of water, which she handed to Tim. He thanked her and she asked him to sit down, saying that Mr Adams would be with his shortly.
Tim waited for five minutes before Don walked into the lobby. He appeared to be in his thirties, had short blonde hair and wore a dark blue suit. They shook hands and Don showed Tim to his office.
Don's office was spacious with potted plants and a desk with a computer. He directed Tim a seat on the side of the desk closest to the door while Don sat on the opposite side.
"Thank you for coming Tim, how are you today?" Don asked.
"Not bad, a little nervous," Tim replied.
"That's all right," Don said with a smile. "So, what have you read about the position?"
Tim mentioned what the ad said.
"We believe in throwing ourselves into the position. When you don that suit, you're not just pretending to be the character, you become him."
"I can do that," Tim said.
"That's great. There are several characters available. Why don't we see which one would be best for you?" Don asked.
The rest of the interview went as well as Tim expected. They decided to send him home with one of the costumes to test his acting ability with it. The character was a raccoon named Billy. Tim wondered how Steve fared and how he would react to the character.
The bus ride home was interesting enough. Tim received many strange looks from people, although no one bothered asking him for details.
Once Tim was home, he called Steve. He too had a raccoon character, albeit one called Fred. Tim invited Steve to come over to try on their costumes together. Steve agreed.
Ten minutes later. Steve was at Tim's house, having brought his costume with him.
"This should be interesting. Um, what happens if your brother sees us?" Steve asked.
"Then I'll shoo him off," Tim said.
"Okay," Steve said.
They walked upstairs. Tim decided to keep his clothes on under the suit while Steve elected to be in his briefs.
"Geeze, you're going to almost naked under that thing? " Tim asked.
"Yep," Steve said. He shook his head at Tim's look. "They get hot; I don't want to overheat."
"Whatever," Tim said.
Once they had the costumes on. They looked at each other.
"Well, hello, Billy," Steve said.
"Hi Fred," Tim replied.
"Come on, get into the role. Don't just pretend to be a raccoon person, while in that suit you are a raccoon person," Steve said.
"Okay, okay. Hi Fred!" Tim said, this time with much greater enthusiasm.
"That's the spirit!" Steve said.
The duo walked over to the mirror to look at their reflections. Tim heard his brother walking up "Hey guys, Halloween isn't for almost four months."
Tim looked into the mirror, trying to ignore Mark. He received the same strange feeling from the mirror. He shook his head. For some reason, it felt like he wasnít looking at a reflection of him and Steve in raccoon costumes but actual raccoon men! Steve had grey fur and the classic mask, as did Tim. Both had tails with what appeared to be four rings and a black tip. In fact, they seemed to be twins.
Then, it got bizarre. The reflection depicted not just Tim and Steve as raccoon people but Mark as well!
"Tim, are you seeing us as..."
"Yes, raccoon people. What the heck is going on?"
Tim looked at his costumed arms. They still looked as though they were a costume! Yet, the reflection was that of real raccoon people!
He looked once more into the mirror and for a second felt dizzy. He closed his eyes. When he opened them a second later, he saw that things had changed. Behind him, his brother was still there but he was now a grey furred raccoon kid! Tim turned and felt his tail brush against Steve's fur!
A tail, Oh my God, I have a tail. I can feel it! Whatís going on?
Gasping and trembling, Tim looked at Steve to see that he was no longer wearing a costume. He too was a raccoon man!
"What ... where did the costumes go?" Tim asked.
"Costumes? Halloween isn't for months. You guys are way too old for it anyway!"
"Um Tim ... how come I'm a naked raccoon guy?"
"How come your brother isn't wearing any clothes? Why is he a raccoon kid? Where did your clothes go?"
"Clothes? Our fur is hot enough!" Mark said.
"I um ... no this has to be a trick!" Tim yelled.
Mark stuck out his tongue and ran out of the room and downstairs. Steve was about to pursue Mark when Tim grabbed Steve's left arm.
"What are you doing?" Tim asked.
"I dunno, I just felt the urge to run and play with him."
"Like you remember doing it somehow?" Tim asked.
"Well, yeah," Steve answered.
"Whatever's happened. I think we've somehow made it so we were always raccoon guys. We wouldn't need the costumes to look like what we already are. Although, where did the costumes go?"
"There arenít any costumes," Steve said. Confused, Tim looked at him.
"You're not thinking 4th dimensionally. If that mirror altered history then we never picked up the costumes because weíre already raccoons, we donít need costumes."
"But why did it change Mark as well?" Tim asked.
"If we were always raccoon guys then the rest of our family ... heck lots of people must be. Arg, this is starting to give me a headache," Steve said.
"Wait ... that means that if we were always raccoon people then we haven't changed and neither has anyone else. So, maybe we were always this way and," Tim said stopping. He rubbed his forehead. Humans would rub their eyes, but having claws made such an action dangerous.
"Can we reverse this?" Steve asked.
"Maybe we should ask the guy that sold it to us," Tim said.
"From his point of view, we haven't changed. This could get complicated," Steve said.
Tim shook his head and giggled. "One problem at a time."
Since they were going outside, Tim knew theyíd have to wear clothes. Steve put on a black tee shirt and shorts complete with strap for his tail. Tim dressed in similar attire with the exception of a navy blue shirt.
"All right, let's ask that guy. I don't think I want to spend the rest of my life as a raccoon," Tim said.
"It might not be so bad. Maybe it's why I liked raccoons. Maybe we were always this way and the mirror just made us see the truth," Steve replied.
"Don't start on me, I already have enough of a headache," Tim replied.
Steve giggled before apologising.
As Steve and Tim reached the front door of the house, Steve noticed something.
"Hey Tim, look at this," Steve said.
"What?" Tim asked.
Tim turned to see a picture of Steve and Tim at their high school graduation. In the original picture, their high school had been so lame that the students didn't have gowns yet the teachers did. Now, both Steve and Tim were raccoon people wearing black gowns, posed with their arms around each otherís backs.
"I guess that confirms it," Steve said.
"Don't say it," Tim said.
"What? We've somehow altered history so we've always been raccoon people."
"I said donít say it!" Tim said.
"Sorry. It's just, hmmm," Steve said.
"Now what?" Tim asked.
Tim saw Steve remove his wallet from his pocket. He pulled out a wallet-sized photo and showed it to Tim. The image was of a younger version of Steve with a pretty fox woman with glasses wearing a black tank top and shorts.
"Who's that?" Tim asked.
"I think that's ... Vicky Hart. Before, I was too shy to ask her out. Now I remember dating for six months. We're still friends! Man, was that some six months," Steve said, his voice sounding as though he were recollecting a fond memory.
Tim shook Steve's shoulder. "Steve, stay with me here. Don't forget who you ... we are."
"Sorry, I'll try not to think of this life too much. We don't want to lose ourselves in it, unless you want to. I wonder if life is better this way," Steve said.
"Steve, stay with me! I don't want to lose my brother," Tim said.
"Brother? Wait a minute. I ... hmmm, we do look alike. You don't think that ... Steve what's your birthday?" Tim asked.
"March 16th ... wait a second, that's not right. What's yours? Isn't it ... it's also March 16, of course! This is getting scary," Steve replied.
"Then we'd better get to that guys house and get everything fixed before it's to late," Tim said.
Nodding, Steve put the picture back into his wallet and returned the wallet to his pocket. They both walked outside. The extent of the changes they'd caused with the mirror became obvious to them almost immediately.
Tim's neighbour Mr. Green from across the street, was no longer a human but a humanoid gecko. He was lying in a hammock in the sun. He wore only black shorts. He waved to the duo was they left the house.
"If that made it so we were always raccoon people," Steve started.
"It must have altered history for God knows how far back," Tim said.
A human girl rode by on a bike; at least humans still exist.
"She's cute," Steve said.
"I don't know if human and anthro animal relations would work. Besides, I think she has a boyfriend," Tim said as a man rode by.
"Oh well," Steve replied.
The duo approached the garage and opened the door. Inside were two bikes that Tim somehow knew they could ride to the man's house.
"Hmmm," Steve said.
"What's wrong?" Tim asked.
"If we're twin brothers, that means I'm no longer my parent's son. I don't like the thought of that," Steve said.
"All the more reason for us to get to the guy's house and fix this problem," Tim said.
Steve nodded and they mounted the bikes and were off. Tim hadnít of ridden a bike in years. Somehow, he remembered doing it as though he'd ridden it the previous day.
As they rode, they passed by humans and anthro animals of various species. Tim wondered if such designations were appropriate. Humans were evolved primates. Tim wondered if referring to he and Steve as evolved raccoons would be more accurate.
Throughout the trip, no one behaved as though anything was unusual. Tim wondered how many other things had changed because of the mirror. If it altered history then who knew how far removed they were from the original timeline.
"Tim, I just thought of something," Steve asked.
"Yes?" Tim replied.
"What if others who owned that mirror have made inadvertent changes like we did?" Steve asked.
"We could be living in the altered version of an altered version of an ... you get the idea." Tim said.
"Must have read my mind," Steve said.
"Ditto," Tim replied.
"I don't like this Tim; It's too much power. Think, of all we've changed by accident. What if some disaster happened because of the changes we've caused? What if some guy became a dictator and caused a major war with it?" Steve asked.
"What do you suggest, that we destroy the thing and be stuck like this forever?" Tim asked.
"No, I ... I don't know. It's too much of a temptation much like time travel if they ever invent it. Someone could use this for evil. Instead of written in stone, history is a document anyone can alter. Don't like it, just go back and change it. With so many people changing things, reality would fall apart."
Steve was distress was obvious as he stopped his bike. Tim stopped beside him and put his arm over Steve's shoulder.
"I always said you watch too much sci-fi and conspiracy stuff. It makes you paranoid."
Steve nodded. Tim had remembered something from this new version of history. He tried to ignore it as not to upset Steve.
"I ... we'll make sure no one abuses this thing. We'll make things right; okay?" Tim asked.
Steve nodded his head and petted Tim's hand. Tim knew this meant Steve trusted him. "Okay," Steve replied.
They resumed riding and eventually arrived at the house of the man who'd sold them the mirror. They parked their bikes. Walking up to the front of the house, they wondered what the guy would look like in this altered (from their point of view anyway) reality.
The man answered the door a minute later. Steve and Tim both gasped when they saw that he was a Kangaroo man. Tim looked the man up and down; he was more humanoid then a natural roo. His posture was better. He wasnít wearing pants, although, Tim knew that with that huge tail, pants would be difficult. He seemed far more intelligent then a natural roo and appeared able to walk as well as hop.
"You chaps all right? You look like you've seen a ghost!" the guy asked.
"Yes sir, we're fine," Steve said.
"Say, do you remember selling us a mirror yesterday?" Tim asked.
"Yes, I think so," the man replied.
Steve began to whisper into Tim's left ear. "Tim, if he remembers us then that confirms it. If he remembered us as humans, he wouldnít recognise us."
"Was there anything special about that mirror?" Tim asked.
"Not that I know of. If it were special, I wouldnít have sold it. Why do you ask?" The kangaroo man asked.
"This is going to sound strange but do you remember being human yesterday?" Tim asked.
"Excuse me?" The kangaroo asked.
"Um, never mind. Thank you for your time," Tim said.
The roo nodded and closed the door. Tim and Steve walked away from the house.
"So now what?" Steve asked.
"There must be a way to find something about that mirror. Myths, legends, there must be something we can find. Why don't you stay with Mark while I go?" Tim asked.
"Well, he's technically your brother now. You seemed to want to play with him earlier."
"Well, yeah, he's fun. No one should ever give up his or her childhood entirely. Although is it right? I mean, before today, I was just his brotherís friend. Now, it's different," Steve said.
"I know but he needs his brother. As far as he knows, things have never been different. If we can't change things back then," Tim said.
"Then we need to keep things the way they are positive, I know. All right, I'll spend some time with Mark," Steve said.
Tim nodded. "Don't be afraid to enjoy yourself."
"I dunno, if I enjoy it too much, it'll be harder to let go if we fix things," Steve said.
"I know, but ... just try to find a happy medium," Tim said.
Steve nodded. They mounted their bikes, Tim heading towards the Library and Steve heading back towards their house.
* * *
Tim arrived at the Library 30 minutes later. He locked his bike up and walked inside. There were a mix of humans and other species inside. The Library appeared similar to how Tim remembered it.
Walking up to the front desk, Tim acquired the attention of the human female attendant by ringing the bell. She was dressed in a white blouse, red vest and black pants.
"Hi, where are books on legends?" Tim asked.
"3rd floor, section D."
Tim thanked her and headed towards the stairway. He looked back and forth at the various people as he walked; wondering how the changes he and Steve had inadvertently made had affected history. Certainly, it had affected fashion, but had it also influenced people's attitudes towards modesty and decency?
Species with large tails for example, often didn't wear pants. A male lion for example wore only a loincloth. It highlighted the lions developed muscles. Tim wondered if his tee shirt and shorts made him overdressed.
I wonder how theyíd react if I threw all of my clothes off.
There were some males with more then one female. The lion had three females with him. Tim didn't want to stare at the man, lest he give the wrong impression.
Tim walked up to the third floor. Despite the changes to the timeline, Tim felt strange walking around as a raccoon man. He never thought of himself as a raccoon in any aspect. Steve on the other hand probably loves this. Itís almost a shame he might have to go back.
Once Tim reached the third floor, he started looking for section D.
"Hello, is there anything I can help you with?"
Tim turned to see a cute, strangely familiar-looking cheetah woman standing a short distance to his right. She wore the same uniform the attendant at the desk wore with the exception of not having shoes. Her nametag identified her as Erica. Oh wow, sheís gorgeous. I wonder what she looks like under that uniform. No, I shouldnít think like that.
"Do I know you? You look familiar."
"Maybe; what's your name?" she asked.
"Hmmm, I think we went to school together. Now that I think about it, were you in my third year English class. Did you have Mrs. Hanson?"
Tim tried to remember the class. He felt a little dizzy. He gasped when he realised that he couldnít remember how some things were before he and Steve changed everything! Now he knew who this was! How could I have forgotten? This was Erica White! Trying to remember the original Erica White was like trying to remember a dream. Was her hair blonde, no it was red, or was it?
"You okay?" Erica asked.
"Yes, Iím fine, thanks. Are you Erica White?"
"Of course, now I remember you!" Tim said.
Erica nodded. "I remember that crazy brother of yours. What did he say about being paranoid?" Erica asked.
"Um," Tim said.
"Oh, that's right. He said that, it's not paranoia when people really are out to get him!" Erica said.
Tim laughed. That sounded like something Steve would say. While he wasnít sure if it was a good idea to discuss details of this new reality he'd imprinted upon his world, he was curious as to how life was different for Erica. If anything, it would be a learning experience.
"So, how has life been treating you lately?" Tim asked.
"My shift is over in 30 minutes. Why don't we meet in the lobby where we can talk?" Erica asked.
Tim nodded. "Sure, sounds like fun. So, in the meantime, which way is section D?" Tim asked.
"Right over that way," Erica said as she pointed out a section with a smile on her face.
Tim walked into the section and sat down at a free computer to search for the appropriate book. He used magic mirror as his search term. He knew that it was a long shot but had to know if there was a way to reverse the changes.
The computer listed two books. Tim nodded and located them both. Both were several hundred pages long. The first had a blue cover, the second brown. Tim walked them to a nearby desk and sat down.
Okay, this shouldnít be too hard. Just find the right one.
* * *
Half an hour later, Tim was growing tried. He'd searched through most of the blue book and was now looking through the brown one. Fortunately for him, the articles had pictures of the mirrors so he could quickly tell which ones were not what he was after.
Finally, he found what was he looking for, a picture of the mirror!
"That's it!" he yelled, getting several shushes in the process.
Tim read the article for clues as to how to reverse the changes to reality.
He found something that shocked him. Hmm, says here that it's called the Mirror of Truths. Apparently, a cleric who hates deception in any form created the mirror. When told that we all make our own truths, as a lesson to those who try to play with truth, he created the mirror.
Tim looked through the rest of the article. So, what does that mean?
"Hey, what'cha reading?"
It was Erica, her shift apparently having ended. She had switched to casual attire. She was dressed in a short black shirt that exposed her belly; black shorts and had an earring in her right ear. Oh wow. Just looking at her made Tim feel flushed and glad he wore clothes.
"JÖJust about a Magic mirror," Tim answered. He knew he had to think fast, even if it meant lying. "My brother swears that he saw it at an antique store."
"Oh, I think I've heard of this thing," Erica said. She looked over the article.
"So, what does that blurb mean?" Tim asked.
"Basically it makes you into what you appear to be. Get this, they say an assassin murdered and dressed himself as the queen. However, after looking in the mirror, that was that. She died never knowing the 'truth' so to speak. It was her grandson, born after the 'incident' who found out about it," Erica said.
"Wait a second. If it changed reality somehow, then how would anyone know that?" Tim asked.
"I dunno. Maybe it didnít affect him for some reason?" Erica asked.
Tim shrugged his shoulders. "Or, maybe it only affected the assassin. Well," Tim replied closing the book. "I doubt weíll ever know. Anyway, want to go and catch up now?"
"Sure," Erica said.
"Just let me check this book out."
Erica nodded and Tim stood up. Perhaps he was getting closer to a solution. He wondered how Steve was doing with Mark.
* * *
Meanwhile, Steve rubbed his chin as he played video games with Mark. This was technically his home now. Mark was his brother. Heíd since removed his shirt but kept his shorts. Mark was dressed in similar attire.
Steve hoped that Tim would find something to cure the changes in the timeline. Steve's distraction unfortunately, allowed Mark to defeat him in the fighting game they were playing.
"Ha ha, I win!" Mark proclaimed. He stood up and started jumping up and down on the couch behind the duo. "I am the champion!"
The game they were playing was similar to its original version (depending on how one looked at it). In the original, all of the characters were human. Now, about half were anthro animals. There didn't seem to be a clear advantage to being either. Steve assumed this was because of the new realities version of equal rights. Steve had been fighting with a boxing kangaroo (while a stereotype, it worked). Mark had been using a powerful but lumbering rhino.
"Okay, okay, get off of the couch, you're making a mess!" Steve said.
"So? Making a mess is fun!" Mark said.
Steve stood up and turned around. "Mark!"
Mark laughed, jumped off the couch and ran in the direction of the kitchen with Steve in pursuit. In the kitchen, Steve saw Mark reaching into the pantry and grabbing a box of chocolate chip cookies.
"Mark, don't eat those, it'll be dinner time soon! If your parents catch you eating cookies, they won't be happy."
Steve shook his head at his error. In their current reality, they shared the same parents! He tried to snatch the cookies from Mark's hands but Mark put the box into his mouth and climbed to the top of the pantry where there was just enough room for him to sit.
"Ha, ha, you can't get up here!" Mark took two cookies out of the box and ate them, dropping crumbs all over the place. "Your parents are gonna kill you for letting me eat so many cookies!"
"You're going to fall and get hurt! Come on, this isn't funny!" Steve said.
Mark removed and threw his shorts off, the garment landing on Steve's head. Steve pulled it off and threw it to the floor. He watched as Mark ate several more cookies and laughed at him.
Okay Steve, remember that heís just a kid; he doesnít know any better. You need to reason with him on a level heíll understand.
Steve decided to try another tactic, "Can I have one?" he asked.
"Get your own cookies!" Mark said.
"All right then. If you're too busy eating cookies then I guess you can't be the champion anymore!" Steve said.
Mark stopped eating. "Huh?"
Steve grinned and turned around. He heard the box of cookies fall to his left. He turned to see Mark climbing down the pantry. Once on the ground, Mark looked at Steve (who elected not to comment on Markís nudity).
"Okay, but I'm still the champion!"
"Not for long!" Steve replied!
Steve and Mark then ran back into the living room to resume their game.
* * *
Erika and Tim stood outside the library. Erika was the person Tim remembered and yet she wasnít. Tim still couldnít believe he was talking to an actual cheetah woman, especially one so beautiful. A part of him felt guilt over imposing this form on her. He wondered if sheíd accepted becoming this way had he asked her.
"So, how have you been doing?" Erika asked.
"Not bad. Let's just say that there's been some changes in life as of late," Tim replied.
"What sort of changes?" Erika asked.
Oh boy, she just had to ask for more information. Okay Tim, no problem, think fast.
"Well, I might be getting an interesting new job."
"Oh?" Erika asked.
Tim thought about the interviews he and Steve had. In their previous reality, it had been animal people costumes. However, with live animal people in the world, was the job different?
"You okay Tim?" Erika asked.
Tim nodded his head. "Yeah, I was ... just thinking of how to describe the job."
Despite his fears over trying to access memories from this new reality, Tim decided to do it. As though he just remembered a dream, Tim knew how the interview and job had changed.
Unfortunately, he also realised that remembering this version of the job made it hard to remember the former version of it. In this reality, the interview was for the part of a raccoon character from a comedy comic. It didn't seem to have existed in their former lives. The company needed more then one person to play the role for a pavilion at an amusement park. One person doing it alone would get tired. Given that Steve and Tim were now apparently twins, it seemed they were suited to the role perfectly.
"You know the comic lazy days?" Tim asked.
"The one about the raccoon bachelor?" Erika asked.
Tim nodded. Now, he was starting to remember it. While he hadnít had followed it, Mark did. Tim had read some of Mark's issues of it.
"It seems they're going to have something at a theme park for it and need someone to play the lead character. Steve and I are ideal because we're twins. It looks like it could work out."
"I remember how good you were at Track in school," Tim said.
Another memory, He knew that being a cheetah would make Erika and obvious candidate.
"I know. Unfortunately, I got out of it after High School."
"What'd you get into?" Tim asked.
"Modelling. Since it was for a woman's clothes store, I'm not surprised you haven't seen it," Erika said.
Tim smiled. "I'm sure you increased their sales by a thousand percent."
"Thanks," Erika said.
Tim sighed. "I need to get home. Would you like to have dinner or something later?"
Erika appeared sad. "Sorry Tim, my parents don't really approve of me dating outside of our species."
Tim nodded. "It's all right, it's not your fault."
"Well, you know where to find me if you ever want to talk," Erika said.
Tim nodded and they parted ways.
* * *
A little while later, Steve was sitting on the couch in the living room while Steve's friend Alex was playing the same game from before. Alex was still human, Steve was glad they were still friends in this version of reality. Steve had invited Alex over after his parents had called to say that they werenít going to be home until later that night.
Alex and Mark were fighting hard and had fought to a draw with each having won three of the past six matches.
"Ha, gotcha!" Mark said after scoring a direct hit on Alex's character.
"Nice one," Alex said.
"Careful Alex, you'll only encourage him," Steve cautioned.
The match roared back and forth with Mark attacking but Alex managing to defend or counter attack everything Mark did. Finally, the timer ran out and the game declared Mark the winner.
"Yes, I am the champion!" Mark declared as he stood up.
"I'll get you next time," Alex said.
"Oh yeah? Want to make it interesting?" Mark asked.
"Careful Alex, I smell a trap," Steve said.
Alex held out his right hand. "Don't worry, I know what I'm doing." He then turned towards Mark. "You're on."
"If I win the next two out of three rounds, you have to um ... do something embarrassing Steve comes up with. If you win I have to do something embarrassing," Mark said.
"Oh sure, make me the villain," Steve said.
"I'm being nice to ya bro. When I win, you can get back at 'em for the time he spilled tomato sauce all over your chest!"
"That was an accident! Anyway, you got it out ... eventually," Alex said.
"And if you win," Steve started to say to Alex.
"Then you can get back at Mark for being such a brat," Alex said, winking at the kid.
"Ohhhh, I'm gonna kick your butt," Mark said.
"This should be interesting," Steve said as he stroked his chin a few times.
With renewed interest in the match, Steve leaned forward and folded his hands; this would be most interesting indeed.
The first match opened with surprise attack from Mark. Alexís eyes went wide as he tried to defend himself. Steve wasnít sure whom to root for. Alex counter attacked and with a few lucky hits, managed to win the first round.
"You got lucky," Mark protested.
Steve petted Mark's head. "Don't worry, you'll get em the next round."
The next round went in Mark's favour. Steve was impressed with his little brotherís tactics.
"Next round wins the bet," Alex said.
"Better start thinking how ya want to get em back bro," Mark said.
"Personally Steve, I think Mark would look great in a dress," Alex said.
"Oh boy," Steve said. I donít get why people took these games so seriously. They aren't anywhere near as serious as adventure or role playing games.
Steve watched his brother and friend go at each other. They moved, counter moved and jumped off the walls. Both scored hits and it was coming down to the closing seconds when Mark managed to get a final hit in which took out Alex's character.
"I win!" Mark yelled.
"Oh oh," Alex said.
Mark turned around and looked right into Steve's eyes. "What'cha gonna make em do?"
Steve looked to his right to see Alex staring at him with an expression that almost seemed to beg for mercy.
Again rubbing his chin, Steve grinned. "Well, we should make it interesting."
"I know, I know!" Mark said.
Steve looked at his younger brother.
"Remember that otter costume in the attic? Make Alex wear that!"
Alex's eyes went wide. "Didn't you once date an otter?"
Steve searched his mind for the answer. He smiled when he realised that yes, in fact he had. Unfortunately, it hadnít of worked out as she was rebounding from a break-up. She'd made up with her boyfriend a few weeks later.
"Yes, I did," Steve answered.
"You two can have a pretend date!" Mark said.
"Let's not take it that far!" Alex said.
"Don't worry Alex, I don't expect a date," Steve said. Standing up, Steve grinned. "The entrance to the attic is in Tim's room."
Alex sighed. "Let's just get this over with."
With Alex and Mark following, Steve walked into Tim's room and then into the closet where the entrance to the attic was.
"Come on, it's this way," Steve said.
Pulling down the ladder, Steve climbed it and opened the door.
He climbed into the attic and looked around as Alex and Mark entered behind him.
"There, it's in that box," Steve said. He walked over to the box, opened it, pulled out the costume, and handed it to Alex.
"Okay, I'll wear this thing but don't tell anyone okay?" Alex asked.
"Don't worry," Steve said.
Alex slipped the costume over his clothes. When he was done, he stood there.
Steve was certain that Alex was blushing under the costume.
"H...how do I look?" Alex said, he voice muffled by the costume.
"Like a girl!" Mark said.
"You look ... um, like an otter," Steve said.
"Well, I might as well get a look at myself," Alex said.
Steve watched Alex walk over the ladder and climb down it. The mirror!
"Alex, wait!" Steve yelled.
Steve dashed towards the ladder.
Unfortunately, by the time he got down, Alex was starting to look at his reflection in the mirror!
* * *
Alex felt dizzy. When the sensation abated, he felt different; however, he couldnít place exactly how. There was a weight on his chest that seemed to come from nowhere. He no longer felt his skin under the costume. In fact, all of the sudden, Alex was wearing his clothes over the costume. At least, he thought they were his clothes. Instead, he was wearing a light blue tee shirt with blue jeans whose waist was adjusted for his tail.
"I don't know Steve, I think that my hair looks better down," Alex said.
Wait, did I just say that? Where did my clothes go? Wait a minute, why do I feel strange? Is that a weight on my chest? Why does he groin area feel like something is missing?
Gasping, Alex realised that the costume didnít feel like a costume any more. But, thatís impossible. No, this is just my imagination. Alex grabbed at his arms only to pinch fur where latex and rubber used to be. Worse, heíd felt his hands grab what was now light brown fur on his arm!
"Hey, what's going on? Where did the costume go?" Alex said.
My voice, I sounded like a girl! Alexís hands went to his mouth. He felt a muzzle complete with whiskers there. He gasped and almost fainted.
Another gaze into the mirror and at the stranger now gazing at him confirmed it; Alex had become Alexandra the otter woman. She even had yellow blonde hair in a ponytail.
My chest, oh my God. If Iím an otter woman then that means I haveÖ
Alex was about to lift up her shirt when she saw the reflection of Mark and Steve behind her. Oh man, not now. I canít even look at my own body with the kid here. Alex took a deep breath. She couldnít take this out on Mark. As far as she knew anyway, he didnít do this.
"It turned you into a girl?" Mark said.
Alex turned around, feeling her long tail brush against the mirror. I have a tail as well. Oh geeze, I could have broken it. A look back confirmed the mirror was all right.
"Umm," Alex said as she turned around and looked down at her chest. "Steve, whatís happening? Why am I a female otter?"
"Damn, I'm sorry Alex," Steve said.
"Sorry for what? Did you do this?" Alex cried.
Mark started giggling.
"Not now okay Mark?" Steve asked.
"Steve, whatís happening? I have breasts and fur, not to mention this huge tail! I donít even want to know whatís going on down there!" Alex said.
Steve walked over to Alex and hugged her. Alex initially felt awkward but something inside of her calmed her, as though it were okay. Alex could smell Steveís scent, in ways her human form wouldnít allow. If anything, she enjoyed it.
"I'm sorry, I should have said something. It seems this mirror is magic," Steve said. His tone was calm.
Alex pushed Steve away. "You knew about this?"
"I didn't plan on this happening!" Steve protested.
"Which makes it even funnier!" Mark said.
Alex glared at Mark. She had to bite her tongue to keep herself from cussing Mark out.
"I think it's changed reality so you were always a female otter," Steve said.
Heís joking; he has to be.
"Youíre kidding me right?" Alex asked.
"No Ö I Ö Iím sorry Alex," Steve said.
Oh God! That means I grew up as a girl. Steve does seem a lot better looking. Oh no, donít tell me Iím attracted to him now!
"I felt something when you hugged me," Alex said. Weíre boyfriend and girlfriend now? "Are we a couple?"
Steve nodded. "I think so."
I didnít need to hear that! Okay, we can do damage control.
"Alex and Steve sitting in a tree," Mark sang.
Steve and Alex glared at Mark.
"Is he always like this?" Alex asked.
"ĎFraid so," Steve said.
"Great, so what am I going to tell my parents and friends?" Alex asked.
I still canít believe thatís my voice. Whatís that smell? Is that I? Alex sniffed the air. Oh man, it is! She didnít smell bad, just different. A slight musk, the fur covering her body seemed to be the source of it.
"As far as they know, you've always been that way. Your parents are likely otter people now and always have been. Whatís wrong?"
"I smell funny," Alex replied.
Steve sniffed her, eliciting a glare from Alex.
"You smell good to me," Steve said.
"Steve!" Alex yelled.
"Let me smell," Mark said, running up to Alex and sniffing her.
"Mark, stop it!" Alex said.
"Why? You were turned into a girl. Itís funny. So, now that youíre a girl, are you two gonna kiss or something?" Mark said.
"Mark!" Alex said.
"Mark, why don't you go play some more games?" Steve asked.
"Ha! You're gonna make out! She used to be a guy and you two are gonna kiss and hug and stuff. That is so gross!" Mark said.
Steve glared at Mark. Mark shrugged his shoulders. "Okay, I'm going."
Mark left the room and Steve closed the door. Alex felt a little more comfortable with Mark out of site.
"Steve Ö Iím Ö a girl! What am I suppose to do?" Alex said.
"Youíll be fine," Steve said.
Alex backed up, sighed and pulled up her shirt. "Youíre not the one that has these!"
Steveís eyes went wide. "Wow Alex you really haveÖ"
Alex put her shirt back over her chest.
"Yes and I suspect Iím equally female down there too," Alex said, pointing to her groin.
"Well, at least your hands arenít webbed." Steve said.
Alex looked at her hands. "Yeah, webbing would make things difficult."
Okay, Iím sure we can reverse this. I just have to be a girl for a while. Thatís not so bad. At least now, I know what it feels like to be one.
"Wait a second. If I was always a girl, that means that I went through school as one!"
Alex was afraid to try to remember this life. Being a girl in the here and now was confusing enough! The weight on her chest was annoying. Most guys think theyíd be elated to have access to breasts whenever they want. Itís different when it happens for real!
"Hey, look at this way, swimming lessons must have been pretty fun," Steve said.
"Yes as a matter of fact ... I always loved those classes," Alex said. She closed her eyes and imagined the water flowing over her fur. She loved swimming.
She opened her eyes wide. "Wait a second, that's not right, is it?"
"Technically it is," Steve answered.
"Arg, this is confusing. You probably only understand it because you read and watch so much science fiction," Alex said.
Steve scratched his head. "Um ... yeah, something like that."
"What, is there something you're not telling me?" Alex asked.
"Yes," Steve replied.
What crazy secret is he keeping from me? Steve would never do this to me intentionally.
"I know the truth about that mirror not because..."
Alex felt feint. Steve stopped talking and rushed to her side. He helped her to the bed, where she cradled her forehead before laying down as Steve sat on the bed beside her.
"You okay?" Steve asked.
What the hell kind of question is that? Okay Alex, calm down, heís not trying to offend you. Alex looked up, seeing her raised shirt. The site of a female body was more shocking then an otter body. Alex wasnít one to fantasise about being female. Why do these things always happen to the ones that donít want it and never to the ones that might enjoy it?
Alex looked up at Steve, "Am I okay? What kind of question is that? I've just turned into a female otter. I have a tail, fur, and boobs. Not to mention the fact that my you know what is gone!"
Sitting up, Alex grabbed Steveís shirt and pulled him close to her. "There's a way to change me back right? We can fix this right?"
"Tim is looking into it as we speak," Steve said.
"Tim? Why would he know about this? What's going on?" Alex asked.
"Please, just calm down and I'll try to explain it," Steve said.
Alex released him. She felt something from being this close to Steve. Oh man, Iím getting excited. Damn it, I think I like guys now. No, heís my best friend, I could never think of him like that!
"Yeah well, you'd better explain it, or I..."
Images of Steve kissing her and slowly lifting her shift up as he massaged her back and then, if she was lucky, her chest flooded her mind. She pushed them out, although she had to admit that despite how wrong those thoughts felt, her body seemed to enjoy them. Alex realised that whatever relationship she and Steve had in this timeline must have been something special.
"What's wrong?" Steve asked.
"N...nothing. So, what's the explanation?"
"Tim and I bought the mirror at a garage sale. We had no idea it could do this. I doubt the previous owner knew either. This is going to come as a shock but I haven't always been a raccoon man or Tim's brother."
Alex looked into Steve's eyes. "What are you talking about? You're the same species that you've always been."
"That's only because the mirror changed history. Just like it's just done it again for you. This is going to be hard to accept, but before that mirror, I was a human male and not part of Tim's family," Steve said.
"You're crazy! I remember you as a raccoon man. I remember the time in second grade that those bullies were calling you a garbage digger and I defended you!"
Steve petted Alex's shoulder. "I know. I'm starting to have trouble remember being human as well. Before Tim and I accidentally changed history, there were no evolved animals, only humans."
"It's hard for me to imagine a world with only humans as an evolved species," Alex said.
Steve chuckled. "Before, people just fantasised about them. They only existed as costumes or in stories and art."
Alex playfully jabbed Steve. "Let me guess, people created a whole fandom based around them and dreamed about the day they'd somehow be real."
Steve shrugged his shoulders and grinned. "Something like that."
"What's next Steve, you accidentally create a fleet of starships or time travel?"
"Not yet but we are working on that."
Alex glared at Steve.
"Kidding," Steve said with a wink.
Alex sighed. "Ironic isn't it?"
"What's that?" Steve asked.
"That in three apparent time lines, we've always been friends. Makes one wonder about fate doesnít it?" Alex asked.
"Yeah," Steve said, taking Alex's hand into his. "It does. Think about this way Alex. At least now you can get away with going into the ladies change room."
"Actually Steve, there's something I need to tell you. I ... don't think I like girls any more. I look at you and see you as more then just a raccoon man. I think you're," Alex stopped, her hand trembling, "I think you're kinda sexy."
Oh man, I canít believe I said it! Oh no, what if he ends up hating me?
"You do?" Steve asked.
"This body does. It keeps responding to you. Oh man, this is so embarrassing. I keep picturing you massaging me. I think it feels great," Alex said.
"Well, I um Ö I guess weíre a couple," Steve said.
"Kinda strange. Yet, kinda neat in a way," Alex said.
This is strange. I just remembered that I can draw.
"Steve this is going to come across as a weird question but, can I draw you?"
"You can draw?" Steve asked.
Alex thought about it. She suddenly remembered her work! As though she was remembering something sheíd learned in school but forgotten. After a few seconds, the lessons would come back to her and sheíd remember it as though sheíd just learned it. Now, the idea of drawing felt natural. This is so cool! Alex now knew how to start with a blank sheet of paper and allow a character to form from a sketch all the way up to a polished final drawing!
"Oh course you can draw! How stupid of me to not know!" Steve said.
"I think I just realised it myself. Was it for you like it was for me?" Alex asked.
"What do you mean?"
"You know how like in school, you learn something but forget it. Then years later, something reminds you of it and it's as though you never forgot it?"
Steve nodded. "Yeah, it was sort of like that for me. Although it was more like waking up and the cobwebs clearing from your mind until everything in reality makes sense again."
"Will we forget the way things were?" Alex asked.
"I don't know," Steve answered in a hushed tone. The prospect was disturbing to Alex and she assumed Steve as well. She wondered if this version of reality was better, perhaps forgetting would benefit them both.
"Well, let's hope Tim has answers. In the meantime, that offer is still good if you're interested," Alex said.
Steve smiled. "Sure. Um, with or without clothes?"
More memories flooded Alexís mind. Sheíd drawn him plenty of times, in both. She tried to contain how the thought of Steve naked made her body feel. While the idea of letting him tear her clothes off was tempting, Alex wanted to remain calm as possible.
"Um Ö letís stick to clothes on for now, okay?" Alex said.
* * *
With the books in hand, Tim rode his bike towards the house. He kept thinking about Erika. In many ways, her parents disallowing her to date outside her species was a form of racism no different then discrimination based on skin colour.
Tim knew that any world would be imperfect. Therefore, he expected such issues. He wondered if perhaps this was one issue where he could kill two birds with one stone. The mirror took Steve from his family. Tim wondered if changing his species would restore Steve.
It's something I have to do. It isn't right to take him from his family like this. Besides, I don't want to be a raccoon for the rest of my life.
Stopping, Tim nodded his head. There was a costume shop nearby.
I can ride there, buy a costume of a different species and try it on in front of the mirror. The issue of making yet another change disturbed him. However, he knew he had to correct at least some of the damage he and Steve had done.
Don't worry Steve, I'll make things right.
With that, he changed direction towards the store.
Shortly after, Tim parked his bike in front of the store. He walked in, the door ringing a bell as he opened it.
With trepidation, Tim looked around the store. Whichever costume he was going to buy would have a significant effect on his life. He would literally be rewriting history.
The lad couldnít help but wonder if he was doing the right thing. A mistake he'd made had already had major ramifications for the entire human race, past, present and future.
Do I have the right to do this? I'm playing God here. Am I asking for trouble? What if I make things worse? Tim shook the worries off. No, I have to be confident. I have to at least try to make things right.
Walking up to the front counter, Tim encountered a heavyset human male that appeared to be in his forties.
"Greetings young raccoon, how can I be of service to you on this fine day?"
Well, if anything, he's certainly cheerful.
"Hi, I was wondering what sort of animal costumes you have?" Tim asked.
The man looked at Tim oddly. "Now, why would a handsome young man such as yourself want to dress up as another species?"
Oh great, is he coming on to me?
Perhaps seeing Tim's expression, the man laughed. "I'm just kidding ya friend. Yes, we have a wide assortment of costumes. They're just right this way."
The man led Tim to a section of the store with the costumes. Tim looked through them, trying to find one that would suit him.
Okay Tim, keep it together. You're doing this for the right reason. Everything will be okay. Tim breathed deeply to quell the feelings of nausea inside of his stomach.
"You okay son?" The man asked.
"Yeah, I um ... had a burrito at lunch, I guess it didn't agree with me," Tim replied. A lie, but he doubted the man would believe the truth. Worse, the man could think Tim crazy and call men in white coats to come and 'help him out'.
Tim considered finding a human costume, but he knew that such an action carried a potential problem. He would end up becoming human but not his old self. While becoming a different humanoid species would carry the same problem, Tim didn't have a set image of what he should look like as a non-human.
After looking through the costumes for a short while, Tim came to a cheetah costume. Something about it called to him, as though, if he were to be anything else, this was the right thing for him.
"I'll take the cheetah costume," Tim said.
"A good choice," the man said.
After paying for the costume, Tim left the store. He looked at up the sky and sighed.
"I don't know if anyone up there is listening to me. I don't even know if there is anyone up there. If there is, I'm sorry for all of this. I would have never bought the mirror if I'd known it would cause this to happen. Please, forgive me."
Looking down and back at his bike, Tim unlocked and mounted it before heading back to his house with the feeling that he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders.
* * *
Back at the house, having played ample rounds in the game, Mark was getting bored. He stood up.
Steve's friend had turned himself into a female otter and was now Steveís girlfriend! Mark knew that Girls had cooties. Mark wasnít sure about girls that used to be boys. If Steve and Alex were making out, (the thought of which grossed Mark out), he'd have to stop them!
Mark ran up the stairs and into Tim's room. He saw Steve lying on the bed while Alex was writing on a pad she was holding.
"What'cha writing?" Mark asked.
"Mark!" Steve said.
"What? I'm bored and I don't want ya to get cooties!" Mark said.
"Cooties? There's a word I haven't heard in a while," Alex said.
Mark pointed right at Alex. "Yer gonna give my bro cooties!"
"Mark, relax, she's just drawing a picture of me," Steve said.
"You can draw? Since when?" Mark asked.
"Since I um Ö became a female otter," Alex said. She shuddered at that expression. "Arg, thinking of myself as a female otter still seems wrong."
Mark laughed. "Youíre a girl now! You're gonna date Steve and have all sorts of weird looking kids and..."
"Mark, enough, you're giving me a headache!" Steve said.
"And what?" Alex asked.
"Nothing," Mark said. His tone was as innocent as he could make it.
Alex handed the paper to Steve and walked over to Mark. She grinned an almost evil grin. "Don't make em kiss you and give you cooties."
"You feeling okay Alex? You're taking this a little too far," Steve said.
"You heard him, Iím a girl now, I guess I should act like it eh Mark?" Alex replied. She then looked right at Mark, crouched and grabbed his arms, puckering her lips up.
"Hey, let me go!" Mark said as he struggled to break free of her grasp.
Alex ginned before putting Mark down. "I'm just having some fun with ya."
"Girls don't have cooties Mark, " Steve said.
"You guys are crazy! You're not really a girl," Mark said.
"I know that Mark, I'm just fooling around with you. Look, want to play a game or something?" Alex asked.
"Okay," Mark said.
"Let's just forget the bets this time. Last time I lost a bet well, you know what happened," Alex said.
"Do you like being a girl?" Mark asked.
"Yeah Alex, you got a little carried away with it there," Steve said as he stood up.
"I never said I liked it. I Just wanted to see how Mark would react if I played the part a little too much. So Mark, what game do you want to play?" Alex asked.
"Hide and seek!" Mark said.
"All right," Alex replied.
I know just the place to hide too.
"You start off then Mark. Let's go downstairs first," Steve said.
Mark nodded and the trio all walked downstairs.
"I have to say Alex, this is incredible, it looks just like me. Sure you want to become a guy again if you draw this well?" Steve asked.
"Don't temp me Steve," Alex replied.
In the living room, Steve and Alex sat down on the couch and closed their eyes.
With a huge smile on his face, Mark told them to count to one hundred while covering their ears. Once they covered their ears, Mark bolted.
He ran all of the way upstairs and went right for the attic. Besides the otter costume that had changed Alex, Mark knew there were other old clothes up there. As well, there were tons of places to hide. Mark found a large box, climbed into it, and waited.
After waiting for what felt like forever, he climbed out. Something caught on him. As he pulled himself free, he saw it was a dress. He managed to pull it off and held it.
It was about his size. He assumed that it was his mothers when she was a kid. Mark got an idea. If he put the dress on, Steve and Alex might not recognise him. Even if they did, he could scare the heck out of them!
Putting the dress over his head, Mark climbed down from the attic into Tim's room. He giggled when he heard Steve and Alex searching for him.
"They'll never know it's me. They'll think I'm a girl just like Alex is!" Mark said.
Mark walked to the door only to see Alex in the hallway.
"There you are! What's with the dress?" Alex asked.
"There who is? " Mark said.
"Steve, I found him! He's wearing a dress for some odd reason," Alex said.
Mark watched as Steve ran up to Alex's side and looked at him before Steve crossed his arms.
"Hilarious Mark. Where'd you get the dress?" Steve asked.
"Um, er, I'm not Mark!" Mark said.
"Uh huh," Steve said.
"Er um, gotta hide again! I only came down cause you guys were taking too long!" Mark said.
Mark turned around and was about to run back up the latter when he saw his reflection in the mirror.
"No, don't look in the mirror!" Steve said.
"Not again," Alex added.
Unfortunately, it was too late. Mark felt dizzy and then his body felt different somehow. When the sensation faded, he somehow knew what had happened to him.
"Ack, no!" Mark said in a voice that wasnít his but that of a girl. "I'm a g...girl!"
Then, she wondered why she was upset. What else would she be, a boy? Boys had cooties; she wouldnít want to be a boy!
"Mark, are you okay? What happened to the dress?" Steve asked.
Mary looked down at the overalls she was wearing. She knew she could pass as a boy when wearing them. Why did Steve think she was wearing a dress? It was a good thing the mirror hadnít changed her!
"Mark? Ewww, I'm not a boy! I fooled you though!" Mary said.
"She has us there," Alex said.
"Alex, this isn't funny," Steve said.
"I know, I know. I guess we'd better find a way to change everything back before things get worse. In the meantime, why don't we all wait in the living room for your brother to get back?" Alex asked.
"Good idea. Come on Mark, I mean Mary, that mirror is dangerous," Steve said.
Not wanting to risk becoming a boy for real, Mark followed Steve out of Tim's room.
* * *
"Steve, wait a minute," Alex said.
Steve looked at Mary and told her to go on ahead.
"Whatís wrong?" Steve asked.
Alex looked at Steve. "Youíre asking me whatís wrong? Steve, that thing just turned your brother into a girl and itís as though she doesnít remember being a boy at all."
Thereís also the fact that no one else will remember me being human.
"Look, I know this is screwed up but weíll get through this somehow," Steve said.
"You always did support me in times like this," Alex said.
Steve put his arms around Alex, drew her in and gave her a hug.
"Hey, youíre the one that supported me during school. When everyone else was encouraging me to be an underachiever, you taught me to put effort into it. I hate to think of what might have happened if you hadnít of been there," Steve replied.
Weird, I remember that now. It feels so natural, like itís really my life and the way things were before was just a dream.
"Steve, I Ö thanks."
Releasing Alex, Steve looked alarmed. "I just remembered something new again." Steve cradled his head. "Itís like itís natural being this way. I know you used to be a guy but I dunno, itís as though weíre meant to know each other this way."
Even having female parts seems right now. I know what itís like to be a guy and human. Yet, being a female otter feels almost right.
Steve put his arms around Alexís lower back. "Kinda creepy isnít it?"
"Yes but not in a bad way. Being a female otter still freaks me out. Yet, something inside of me seems to be calming me. Iím kinda worried that if Iím stuck like this that Iím going to like it. I mean, I have feelings for you now. I never had a girlfriend before. I hated going it alone. Now, the idea of being alone is even worse."
"Otters are social, it makes sense that you wouldnít want to be alone. I never personally knew anyone that could draw. No one ever really encouraged me during my school years. I mean, you know the stereotype; a guy doing well in school and all," Steve said.
Alex nodded her head. "Itís so stupid that guys sometimes encourage each other to do poorly. I never did well in school either."
Taking a risk, Alex accessed her memories. Remembering doing poorly in school faded as though she was waking from a dream. Remembering doing well in school came back to her. The sensation was similar to encountering a friend or colleague one hasnít seen in years where memories of those days come back and itís as though they just happened.
"I remember now. I did well in school," Alex said. Nodding her head, it all made sense to her. "Of course, how could I have forgotten? Sure I didnít graduate at the top of my class of anything like that but I still did well."
"We went to college together," Steve said.
I know this is dangerous but I think itís worth the risk.
"I took art," Alex said, giggling, "naturally."
"Some people jokingly suggested I become a garbage man; nothing wrong with that. The money is good. Without them, the world would be a much dirtier place. It just wasnít for me, despite my species," Steve replied.
"Right, so you took creative writing. Remember that April fools gag article you did for the school paper about the teachers actually being robots?" Alex asked.
Steve chuckled and nodded his head.
"I even drew concept art of their schematics. Quite a few people believed it. I think they were disappointed when we said it was all a gag," Alex said.
"Yeah," Steve said.
Alex sighed. "So, what are we going to do? It seems like our lives are good this way. I can get used to being a girl and an otter. Can you get used to me being your girlfriend?"
"I think I can adjust. Besides, at least this way neither of us has to be alone any more. Granted, itís not the way we planned on having someone but it works well enough."
"Well, I do get to see a naked woman any time I want now," Alex said.
"Thatís the spirit," Steve said.
Steve released Alex and they resumed walking. Alex wondered if she was willing to change back, assuming it was possible. Being female felt different to say the least. However, the otter part would take more getting used to. Despite the fact that Alex could now go into the ladies change room and showers, she didnít feel as excited as she thought she would. Alex assumed that was because the opposite gender still interested her. Now that she was female, that gender was males!
"Well, want to get something to eat before Tim gets home?" Steve asked.
"Sure, do you have any tuna?" Alex replied.
* * *
Tim parked his bike in the garage, walked out of it and closed the door behind him. He carried the books and costume up to the front door.
"This is it, the moment of truth," Tim said to himself.
When he opened the door and walked into the house, something unexpected greeted him. Alex was there. He could smell her scent, a new method of identifying people he was just starting to realize.
"Steve, you there?" Tim asked.
"Iím in the kitchen," Steve replied.
Steve placed his purchases on a table by the front door, walked into the kitchen and saw Alex eating a sandwich with Steve.
"Hi Alex," Tim said.
Tim was never interested in otters; Steve on the other hand loved them. Even in this version of history, that still seemed to ring true (assuming Timís memories of this new reality were correct). However, now Tim remembered being jealous of Steve! He remembered that Alex had offered to set Tim up with one of her friends but Tim hadnít of been interested because he saw it as pitty.
The otter put her sandwich down, looked at her chest and then at Steve. She then attempted to cover her chest. "Um, hi."
"Whatís wrong?" Tim asked.
"You remember her as a female otter?" Steve asked.
Tim nodded. "Yes. Oh no, donít tell me the mirror strikes again! What happened?"
Steve reiterated the story of Alex accidentally becoming a female otter.
"Iím afraid that isnít the only accident that happened Tim," Steve said.
Tim sighed, "what else happened?"
Something latching onto his right leg made Tim jump. He looked down to see a female raccoon kid dressed in overalls looking up at him.
"Mary," Tim asked.
"Tim!" the girl said before giggling.
"Um, Tim," Steve started.
Tim looked up at Steve. He had a feeling that he didnít want to hear the answer.
"What now?" Tim asked.
"Mary and us were playing hide and seek. She was pretending to be a raccoon boy named Mark that stood in front of the mirror. Itís a good thing it didnít do anything to her," Steve said.
"Good thing I didnít become a boy! Ick, boys have cooties!" Mary said.
"What are you talking about? Wait a minute," Tim replied.
"Mary used to be Mark. Donít you remember?" Steve asked.
"Lies! Thatís not funny!" Mary said.
Tom shook his head. "No, because I wasnít standing in front of it when this happened! Um, anything else you need to tell me?"
Steve shook his head. "So, were you able to find information about the mirror?"
"Yes, I was," Tim answered.
Alex looked right at Tim. "So, how do we make me a male human again?"
"How do we make me my parents, that is my real parents son again?" Steve asked.
"Well, the answer is a bit complicated."
"Tim, this isnít a joke. I need to know whether or not Iím going to spend the rest of my life as a female otter," Alex said.
"Well, the truth is, you donít have to but Iím not sure we can restore our human selves," Tim said.
"What do you mean?" Alex asked.
"You mean that Alex is gonna stay a girl? Yay!" Mary said. Mary let go of Timís leg, ran over to Alex, and hugged her. "Boys are boring! You should stay a girl!"
"Your brother isnít boring and heís a boy!" Alex said before sticking out her tongue at Mary.
"I um Ö hey thatís not fair! Yer cheating!" Mary said.
Tim watched the scene before him. It was disturbing yet at the same time entertaining. Steve didnít seem to mind having Alex as his girlfriend. Despite enjoying having a twin brother, Tim knew that it wasnít right to take Steve away from his family. He also knew that they appeared to be losing their memories of the way things were. It was possible that eventually, none of them would remember anything had changed.
"Steve, can I see you in the living room?" Tim asked.
"Sure no problem. Um Alex, can you watch Mary for a minute?" Steve asked.
"Sure," Mary said.
Tim led Mark to the living room where they both sat down.
"So, what did you learn?" Steve asked.
"It seems that the mirror is a magic mirror," Tim said.
Steve glared at Tim. "I think weíve already established that Tim!"
Whoa, calm down Steve.
Seeing Timís expression, Steve sighed and rubbed his forehead before apologizing. Tim petted Steveís right shoulder and told him that he understood and not to worry about feeling angry.
"So, how do we fix everything?" Steve asked.
"I donít think we can. The problem is, we canít really become our human selves again. Yes, Alex can become a male again but unless she wants to be a generic human, sheís going to have to remain an otter."
"What about my family?" Steve asked.
"I bought a cheetah costume. Iím going to try it on in front of the mirror. If we both stand in front of it then it should change me but not you. As long as I play act enough, Iíll become a cheetah man and it should restore you," Tim answered.
"Thereís one thing I donít understand," Steve said.
"Whatís that?" Tim asked.
"I know you donít remember Mark as a boy. However, if Mark ... sorry Mary is better behaved as a girl, then logically she wouldnít have broken the mirror. If she didnít then how did you get the magic one in this version of reality? I mean, Alex and I have been friends in all of the versions. Now, weíre still friends but a couple! What other explanation is there besides fate?"
"Fate," Tim whispered before folding his hands. "I wish I knew the answer to that question. Maybe itís one of those things where some things have to happen. Sure, they might happen differently depending on the version of reality weíre dealing with but they still happen. To answer your other question, I remember Mary accidentally smashing the mirror when we were playing catch and she missed a catch."
Steve nodded. "Well, I guess we should do this. I think Alex has the right to know the truth. Iím willing to become a girl as well if she isnít comfortable with being my girlfriend," Steve said.
"I think two guys becoming girls is enough Steve. Besides, if you do that then for all you know weíll be boyfriend and girlfriend."
Steve just looked at Tim.
* * *
Alex had Mary on the kitchen floor and was tickling her feet when Steve and Tim walked back into the room. Playing with Mary had felt natural. As a male, Alex had liked kids in fiction but sheíd been nervous around them in reality.
Now however, it felt normal. It couldnít have been because she was female as sheíd seen men that were great with children. Perhaps being an otter or having a significant other had something to do with it.
"Weíre ready," Tim said.
Alex stood up and looked at the two.
"Ready for what? So, can I become male again?" Alex asked.
"You can become male but Ö not a human, unless you want to be a generic human," Tim said.
Alex ran towards Tim, stopping right in front of him. "What are you saying?"
Tim hung his head. "Iím sorry Alex."
"As am I. I should have had us all keep out of his room. I knew about the mirror," Steve said.
"You knew that thing would make Alex a girl?" Mary asked.
"I want to make things right Alex, even if I canít make them as they were before this mess started. Think about your life. Youíre still you more or less arenít you?" Tim asked.
"I think so. If anything, my life seems better," Alex replied.
"Iím going to wear a cheetah costume in front of the mirror. That way, as long as I play it right, the mirror will restore Steve to his original family. I think itís best if you stayed down here while we do it," Tim said.
"I donít understand. Iíve always known Steve as your brother. Youíre saying that he isnít or at least wasnít?" Alex asked.
Steve nodded. "I donít want to abandon my parents. If you stay down where while we do this, as far as you know, things will have always been as they will become."
"I donít get it Steve. Youíre not really my brother? Why is this mirror so mean to people?" Mary asked.
"What if you change things and weíre not a couple any more? I might end up with someone that will abuse me or worse, we might never have met!" Alex cried.
"Remember how we discussed fate? How, no matter what the reality has been so far, weíve still been friends?" Steve asked.
Alex nodded her head.
Steve brought Alex close and hugged her. By now, this was starting to feel natural. Alex wondered if it was better to stay this way.
"I think that mirror has a way of keeping things more or less as they are," Steve said.
"Listen to him Alex, I think heís right. Originally, I was unemployed and Steve was stuck in a dead-end job. It seems we still are. Itís just that the jobs weíre after are different," Tim said.
"I know you were looking for work as well," Steve said.
Alex nodded. "Well, I donít want to spend my life as a department store clerk. I think I have some good prospects with my art."
"I wonít be a boy will I?" Mary asked.
"No, you wonít," Tim said
Releasing Steve, Alex stood back. "I guess if youíre fixing things so theyíre closer to how they were, maybe it is better if I change along with reality. Things are already confusing enough."
Tim and Steve nodded.
"All right then. Weíll be back, hopefully soon."
"Good luck," Alex said.
Alex watched as the duo left. After a minute of standing in silence with Mary, the young raccoon girl suddenly took off towards the stairwell.
"Mary, wait!" Alex yelled.
* * *
With the cheetah costume on, Tim took a deep breath. Steve was beside him.
"This is it. Remember, you need to think of yourself as your parents son, that is your original parents," Tim said.
Steve nodded. "Letís do this."
Shaking Steveís hand, Tim nodded and turned to face the mirror. He did his best to remember how things were before all of this mess began.
I am a Cheetah man, Tim. Steve is my friend and he lives at 345 Norman Lane, just three houses from me. Weíve been friends ever since the third grade.
Tim heard someone running down the hall. "Wait for me!" It was the voice of Mary.
Just as she entered the room and looked into the mirror, Tim felt dizzy. Again, everything seemed to change.
Timís costume disappeared, or more so, he had never put it on. He was always a cheetah man now so he had no need to wear the costume of one.
"Did it work?" Steve asked.
Tim saw that Mary was still a raccoon girl! Somehow, her being there when they were changing things kept her as Steveís brother.
"I think it worked but we have a small problem," Tim said.
Steve looked at Mary as Tim grabbed a sheet from his bed and draped it over the mirror. Alex walked into the room moments later.
"Iím sorry guys, she got away for me," she said. Alex looked at the mirror and then at Tim and Steve. "Did it work?"
"We think so. What do you remember?" Steve asked.
"You wanted to try on that shirt and to show it to Steve. Iím glad you covered that mirror before it did any more damage," Alex said.
"Me too," Tim said.
"Itís strange," Alex said.
"How so?" Tim asked.
"The reality I knew was where I was a human male. Then you tell me itís false and yet true at the same time. If that mirror hadnít of changed me, Iíd have never believed it. I donít know a world without evolved animals yet you guys tell me we all used to be human. Makes me wonder what else has changed without our knowledge," Alex said.
"I know itís creepy. However, think everything is all right now. Iím already starting to remember the new reality weíve just created. I know you donít remember but Tim and I had accidentally made me Timís twin brother. We were trying to fix that. I think we did. I donít think this reality is much different from the old one. The only difference is, Iím back with the right family. Maybe itís because this is closer to how things are supposed to be, assuming there is such a thing," Steve said.
"Wait, so you were really trying to fix something? Thatís why you wanted me downstairs?" Alex asked.
Steve and Tim nodded.
"It looks like there was a hitch. Sheís still my sister," Steve said.
"Of course she is. Youíre saying she wasnít?" Alex said.
Tim shook his head. "She used to be my sister, thatís why we wanted her to stay downstairs. We could try to fix it but maybe itís best that we leave things as they are. Besides, you always wanted a little sister. Alex seems to get along with her pretty good."
"Youíre still my brother Steve?" Mary asked.
"Yes," Tim said.
Mary looked at Tim. "Youíre not now?"
Tim shook his head. "Iím sorry."
"I like you better anyway Steve. I want to be raccoon, not a cheetah. I like Alex, sheís nice to me," Mary said.
"Then, it looks like things worked out," Tim said.
"I guess thereís a lesson we can all learn from this experience. That mirror is dangerous. Such power is best left alone. So, what do we do with it?" Steve asked.
"We put it away and keep it covered. There just too much potential abuse that could happen with it," Tim replied.
"Well, weíd better get home," Steve said as he petted Maryís head.
Tim nodded and suddenly smiled. He remembered how Ericaís family didnít want her to date outside her species. Now, he was the same species as her! He remembered the conversation going different. They were meeting for dinner at eight!
"Besides, it seems I have a date."
* * *
When Steve arrived home with Mary and Alex, they found the house as Steve had hoped it would be. The spare bedroom his parents used to have was no longer a spare room but Maryís room. Both Steve and Mary at first found it odd. However, after sleeping in his room for the first night, Steve woke up to wonder if his perception that things were different was a mere dream. Mary experienced the same issue. Only after Tim told them of the mirror did they know what happened was real. Steve found the situation frightening and knew they had to keep the mirror covered to prevent any potential contamination of history.
Alex arrived home to find her home as though sheíd always been a female otter. Her parents and indeed, the rest of her family were otter people. She found her room decorated as she expected a girlís room would be. Her shower even had shampoo especially formulated for her otter fur. She even discovered pictures of her and Steve on dates theyíd been on. Initially, she had a clear memory of how being male felt. However, as with Steve and Mary, after the first night, memories of things being different grew foggy. Soon, she couldnít remember a life where she wasnít a female otter and Steveís girlfriend. The idea that she was once male and human ended up seeming silly to her. If she were to become male, sheíd lose out of being a couple with Steve, something unappealing to her.
Tim later went on his date with Erika. The date went well with the two promising to meet again. At first, he felt a sense of loss over Steve no longer being his brother. He then however, reminded himself that the mirror had taken Steve from him family. They had just restored things. Within a day, that feeling all but vanished. Tim couldnít remember ever having Steve as a brother, let alone Mary as a sister. He knew that things had changed but if someone were to press him for details about how, heíd find it as though he was trying to remember a dream.
Soon after the incidents, Tim made sure to cover the mirror before moving it up to the attic. He knew it was dangerous and couldnít risk activating its powers by accident. Perhaps some day, if someone needed its help, he might use it. However, until that day came, Tim planned to keep it in storage.
As for Timís job interview. With history changed only he that had one. The position was now a spokesperson for athletic equipment that the company sold. Fortunately for him, he found out that they needed a cheetah to play the part. Two days after his interview with Erika, they called him to inform him that he had the job.
A few weeks after the incident, Steve was planning to move in with Alex. Neither could remember life from before theyíd changed things. Theyíd enjoyed it enough that they didnít want it to be back to normal (if there indeed was a normal) if it meant theyíd have to be apart.
The mirror, an item of potential destiny or disaster currently sits in Timís attic, waiting for its next user.