Pendant Changes — Wednesday (Until Lunch)

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    Mark Newman

    Mr. Green smacked his hand on the table, making much less of a noise than he would have last week. "This is JUST what I was saying. Why it took them so long to admit it was news just goes to prove what I said all along about newspapers. The whole industry is crooked. They only tell you what they want you to hear! ‘All the news that’s fit to print’ indeed!"

    "Then why do you read them?" Mrs. Green said, crossing her arms in front of her chest. Normally she would have just smiled at her husband’s tirades. But today, enjoying the feel of the new, hard bulges in her arms, she decided to take things further. "It seems to me that the time you waste with newspapers would be better spent on other things. Like talking more with your children."

    "What about?! They have no interest in anything other than pop music and — good morning Michelle." He cleared his throat. "You look like you went out for another run today."

    "Hi Daddy!" She leaned over to kiss him. "Uh huh! That’s five days in a row for me!" She looked at the headlines. "Um, what are you reading about?"

    Mrs. Green shot a triumphant look at her husband.

    "Just look. The whole newspaper today is about what’s happened to men and women. What still may be happening."

    "Wow! After all this time they finally — uh, does it, uh, say why it’s happened?"

    Mr. Green raised his eyebrows, determined not to look at his wife. "That’s a good question, honey. No, they haven’t. This article — it’s the lead story — says the NIH has not identified any factor that could have caused the changes. What they do say is that the whole biochemistry of the human body has changed. All the science on — where is it? — ‘the interaction between the endocrine system and human tissue’ is suddenly invalid and now has to be redone. But what has caused this change, which has been spontaneous, all over the world, and is confined to human beings, is completely unknown. Not only that, but they say there is no known physical process that can account for the simultaneous loss of body mass by all human males, or the gains in height and muscle mass by human females. What brilliance! I could have told them that!"

    Michelle had now sat down and was digging into her cereal, concentrating on the piles of Cheerios on her spoon. "Um, like it was magic?"

    "No, not magic! There’s no such thing as magic, Michelle. You know that!"

    "Um, of course, Daddy. It’s just … well, if science can’t explain something —

    "Then you don’t just call it magic. You keep on investigating, experimenting, until you find the cause. And then you can DO something about it!" He smacked the table again.

    "You mean, you think they’d try to change things back? I, um, like the changes. I like being stronger. Having muscles. It’s fun."

    Mrs. Green walked over to the table and put her hands on her husband’s shoulders. They felt so small, so fragile. She held them firmly. "That’s right, honey. I think it’s good that women have become the stronger sex. I think we’ll make much better use of our position than men have."

    Mr. Green tried to turn around to talk to his wife, but she was holding him too tightly. So he kept looking at Michelle instead. "We have no idea what has caused these changes, where they will stop, and what the long term consequences may be. Certainly our scientists should be doing all they can to get at the root causes so that they can return us to our normal bodies."

    Michelle looked distressed. "But Daddy —

    "Don’t fret, dear," Mrs. Green interrupted. "Your father has always solved the world’s problems at breakfast. But, fortunately, the world’s leaders don’t listen to him. Anyway, you can be sure that if men knew a quick way to grow bigger muscles they’d have done it a long time ago. So you don’t have to worry that you’re about to lose your new physique — which looks very nice on you, dear — at least not because of anything the world’s scientists may do."

    "Mom! What am I going to do about school clothes! Nothing fits!" Joe called out.

    Mrs. Green sighed and called out. "I took out some of your old blue jeans and polo shirts — from before your growth spurt. Good thing I never threw them away. You can wear those until we have time to shop for new things."

    "I saw that stuff! But I wore those when I was thirteen! I’ll look like a total dork!"

    Michelle covered her mouth to hide her laughter and barely resisted the temptation to call out her agreement. At least her sewing skills had some in handy last night for her own clothes, instead of just providing a reason for her mother to give her work to do.

    "It’ll have to do for now. I’m sure all your friends have the same problem, so don’t worry about standing out," Mrs. Green answered.

    Now Michelle couldn’t resist. "He won’t stand out, Ma. He’s so short no one will even SEE him!"

    Mrs. Green shot Michelle a dirty look just as Joe came into the room. "I heard that!" he said angrily and marched over to Michelle who immediately stood up. She was more than a head taller than her brother now, and next to her he looked like he was barely more than eleven. She looked down at him, patted him on the head and giggled. "I’m so proud of you for having such good ears, Joe!"

    Joe steamed, but didn’t dare try anything with his larger and stronger sister. Besides both his parents were right there, watching them.

    "That’s enough you two. Now eat breakfast. You both have to leave for school in ten minutes."

    Joe walked up the school steps, thinking he had just gone five years back in time, to when he had visited high school as a 5th grader as part of a special science fair program. Then, and now, the girls all towered above him, some a head taller, many much more than that. This morning the girls were calling out happily to each other, squealing with pleasure each time they saw a friend for the first time since yesterday when she had reached her new height, reaching out to hug and kiss each other, heedless of bumping the boys that scurried underneath, too small to notice, too weak to push back.

    Unlike the boys, who, like Joe, could get away with wearing old clothes, most of the girls had nothing that fit yet and had to make do with skin tight tops that left their midriffs and forearms bare and with skirts that were let out around the waist and hips and reached down only to the middle of their thighs at best. Several girls walked barefoot, having worn their father’s snow boots to school until they could dispose of them in their lockers. It should have been a visual feast for Joe, with a sea of breasts whose shapes were revealed clearly by the stark outlines of ill-fitting tops. But that turned out to be a more dangerous pastime than it used to be. The first girl he looked at on the way into school, a sophomore whose name escaped him, shoved him against the wall.

    "You think I LIKE being looked at like a piece of meat?"

    Joe blinked. "What are you —

    "I DON’T like it. Not one bit!" Joe tried to remove her palm from his chest. He would have had just as much luck removing the bricks from the wall behind him. "As far as I’M concerned, boys are going to have to be more respectful. And ALL my friends feel EXACTLY the same way!"

    She marched away. Joe felt his slightly bruised chest and caught his breath, thinking that the sight of that girl’s tits were hardly worth even half the pain he was feeling, then proceeded down the hall. There was Pamela. She was chatting with two friends, laughing and gesturing enthusiastically. My GOD! LOOK at HER. He stared at the two melon-sized balls moving with happy abandon in her t-shirt, unchecked by underwear, every detail of her nipples traced against her top. Just then she turned his way. Her gaze hardened. "Another one!" she said to her friends and marched toward Joe. "Hey! Didn’t I tell you yesterday —

    Joe started running and crashed into a girl from his homeroom, Jean Marsh, a short squat hockey player. At least she used to be short and squat. Now she was five-eleven and built like the Hulk. He bounced off her and onto the floor. She turned around, annoyed and then laughed. "Hey, squirt. Watch where yer going!" She reached down and picked him up off the floor like she was lifting her purse. "Joe Green! I wouldna’ reconized you!"

    "Yeah, uh, Jean. Thanks. I’ll, uh, see you in homeroom." He looked around for Freddie, but it was hard to see any of the guys and harder still to push through the traffic of large female bodies. Finally he gave up and headed down the school corridor cautiously toward homeroom, keeping his eyes to the ground, worried about offending more of the she-hulks. This was ridiculous. Somebody had to do something about these girls. They were totally out of control. First Michelle turning into a mega-Amazon and harassing him. Then every other girl in school showing up, bursting with muscle, pushing him around like he was a bit of foam on a wave. This was awful!

    Then things got worse.

    "Joe! I’ve been looking for you!" a voice sang out.

    Oh no! Cindy! He turned the opposite way and started walking away from homeroom, but a phalanx of broad female backs blocked his path and then a large hand reached over him and pulled him backwards.

    "Hey Joe! I was worrying I wasn’t going to see you before class!" She pulled him against her, the back of his head pressing into her breasts. The rest of her felt rock-hard. Then she hoisted him off the ground so that he rested in the crook of her arm like he was a small child. She took his books and added them to her own pile in her other arm.

    "What are you DOING!?" he sputtered angrily.

    She grinned. "Ssshh! You’re so small I was worried you’d get trampled by us BIG girls! So I’m carrying you to your homeroom. Besides, I wanted to see you. Room 212, right?" She squeezed his bottom.

    "Hey! Oww!"

    "Oop! Sorry. I forget how strong I’m getting. Do you see my muscle?" She pumped her arm, pushing it outward. "It’s 18" all the way around! That’s really big, you know, almost as big as my Dad’s was. And it’s been just five days I’ve been exercising. I’ve lost all my fat too. Feel how hard my tummy is." Wary but curious, Joe reached down to touch Cindy’s surprisingly flat stomach. "These bumps here are muscles. Poor Dad. He’s got all fat now and he can hardly walk because of his knee. But he’s being really nice to me." She gave Joe another squeeze and a kiss on his cheek. "Here we are! I’ll find you at lunch. We can eat with Cal. She’s excited about meeting you. Unless you want us to eat with your friends. We could do that tomorrow. Oh! Isn’t that your friend Freddie? He’s cute! I bet Cal would like him!" She walked up to Freddie, passing through the crowd easily as the girls looked at Joe and laughed.

    "Hey, Freddie! I’m Joe’s girlfriend, Cindy. Joe and I want you to eat with us and Cal today, kay?" Fred looked up at Joe quizzically. "You’ll like Cal. She’s lots of fun, even though she’s not as big as I am. You’ll see.". The first bell rang. "Oh darn! I gotta go." She let Joe down and gave him back his books. "See you later, honey!" She kissed him and walked quickly off. The two boys watched her long legs disappear in the crowd.

    "Did she mean Calley Fleischmann? She’s a complete zero!" Fred said, disgusted.

    "I know. But you have to come. At least today. For me, right? Until I figure out how to ditch Cindy. Don’t worry. You don’t have to go out with Calley!

    "You’re telling me? I mean, really, Joe. Are you saying Cindy Barrett’s your girlfriend now?"

    "Of course not! I know how it looks but, jeez, I’m sure not really going out with her. Although you have to admit she’s got some pretty amazing tits."

    "Tits aren’t everything, Joe. She’s such a pain. Look at the way she treats you — like she’s taking over your life. Suddenly you’re eating LUNCH with her? What’s with THAT? And what about those muscles? UGH!! She’s like a man!"

    "Well you may not have noticed Freddie, but ALL girls have muscles now. Even my ditzy sister. And it’s not like we guys do. And I say, if you’re gonna be with a girl who’s got muscles, big tits help." He sighed. "And speaking of tits — man! Did you see Pamela Brown’s tits today …."

    Mrs. Paterson stood in front of her class wearing an ill-fitting men’s blouse and men’s blue jeans. "Class. CLASS! SETTLE DOWN. We have a lot to cover before the Special Assembly."

    Celia looked to her right and left, making sure Jacob and Harold, sitting at each side of her, were paying close attention to any signal she might give them. Good!

    "I will lead a short discussion now, and after the assembly we will have a guest, Marilyn Knewsome, to facilitate an open session to help you address the questions you naturally have about what has happened to all of us this past week. Marilyn is a graduate student in psychology at Rutgers and specializes in teenage psychology, so I’m sure you will find her a special help at a time like this."

    "What if we don’t need any special help? I’m doing just fine and so are my friends." Celia gave the signal and Harold and Jacob nodded. "So, can we skip it and do something else?" she smirked. She had her hands on her biceps and pumped them a few times, pleased that with four hours of work on "Bob’s" weight machine last night her biceps were even larger today, although still not as large as Sandy’s or Juliet’s. She was going to have to work even harder to pass them.

    "No!! This is a mandatory class, Celia." Mrs. Paterson replied sharply, missing her stick. "Whether you realize it or not, Celia, both boys AND girls DO have serious adjustment issues following the changes in their bodies, and you would be well-advised to take advantage of the special program we at the high school has set up today for you. Absences will be noted and we WILL take disciplinary action."

    She cleared her throat. "Now. Notwithstanding some unfortunate remarks on Monday –"

    At this, Juliet covered her mouth to hide her smile, making the fact she was smiling even clearer.

    "– I think our discussion proved quite fortuitous as an introduction. In retrospect, Kimberly’s comment about the Women’s Marathon was exactly on target! The forces of history were at work!"

    "What forces were those, Mrs. Paterson?" Juliet asked.

    Mrs. Paterson ignored her.

    "Yeah, I want to know why all this happened?" Jeff Sails asked. Jeff didn’t mix much in school but was considered to be the boy most likely to live in a tree. He was known as a passionate hiker, camper and rock climber. He rarely spoke up in class, so most heads turned in surprise. "I think it’s a result of pollution. We reached the tipping point and now look what’s happened. It’s just another crime against the planet. Against all of us. And what is the government going to DO about it?" He looked at Mrs. Paterson. Martin rolled his eyes and turned around to look at Theresa, then Sandy and Michelle.

    "I don’t know why it happened, Jeff. How this happened and why is a question for biologists and physical scientists." Sandy snuck a look at Theresa, who smiled, and then at Michelle, who kept her own eyes firmly in her notebook, too guilty and embarrassed to react and possibly let Martin see. "Principal Gregg will fill you in on the latest information we have at the special assembly, and I understand the President is giving a speech tonight on the Government’s reaction and any plans they may have. You can also do research on the internet about how other countries are addressing the problem. Perhaps that is something we can discuss another day. But what Ms. Knewsome and I are here to discuss with you is what this means to you."

    Jeff shook his head. "I’m telling you all now; they won’t give us the whole story. This is a real opportunity to teach the world about the dangers of our modern lifestyle. About chemicals. And radiation. Finally I think everyone will understand why we need action, not just talk."

    "I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Why should ANYBODY do ANYTHING about it?" Kimberly said heatedly. "No one has the right! No one ever voted for boys being the stronger sex. Now that they’re weaker, I think things should stay this way. This is a democracy. The government has no right to change things back. And since females are a majority –"

    "Majority rule has nothing to do with it. My fundamental rights have been violated. My right to my own body, which has been taken away from me!" Martin said. "And Jeff’s. And Harold’s. And Jacob’s. ALL the guys here! It’s just not fair!" He looked at Harold, expecting support, but Harold just looked straight ahead. "What’s the matter with you guys? Why are Jeff and I the only ones talking?"

    "It’s not about human rights. It’s about the Earth’s rights!" Jeff said fervently.

    "You interrupted me!" Kimberly said angrily, her now sizable chest heaving. "I’ve always HATED when guys interrupt. They do it ALL the time and they always get away with it. I won’t stand for it any more!" She glared at Martin who looked back pugnaciously.

    "We ARE going to have a lively discussion, but it won’t work unless we respect each other." Mrs. Paterson took a deep breath. "For purposes of today’s class, I will pass on the opportunity to discuss the differences between direct democracy and representative government and the question of fundamental human rights, animal rights and the rights of the ecosystem. Our priorities today are with each other, those of us right in this class room. Harold, you’re unusually quiet. Surely you have some opinions about what has happened to you."

    "I do, but I’m not going to —

    Celia shot him a look.

    — um necessarily say what you, uh, expect. I, uh, think it’s great … what’s happened. Girls, uh, they deserve to be strong. They were weak and oppressed — just like us black folks — and, uh, now they’re free. They should have their chance to be on top." He glanced at Celia who nodded and gave a little smile.

    Mrs. Paterson looked at him quizzically. "Did I hear you correctly, Harold? Are you saying you don’t mind what happened? That being the weaker sex is fine with you?" She raised her eyebrows. Celia turned to look at Harold directly and nodded slightly.

    "Uh, yeah! Being strong isn’t everything. I like the way girls look with muscle. And as for myself," he glanced at Celia, "I think being the strongest guy at school was, uh, overrated."

    "Are you crazy?" Martin asked, incredulous.

    Harold turned around and glared at Martin. "I’m STILL stronger than you are, pipsqueak, so if you’re smart, you’ll —

    "Enough of that, Harold! That’s a very interesting opinion. I’d like you to explore that point of view more when Marilyn joins us later. What about you Jacob? You had some strong opinions Monday about male and female athletes, that girls didn’t deserve as much support as boys because their competition was not as legitimate. How have the recent events affected your views? Do you agree with Harold?"

    Jacob cleared his throat. He looked at Harold and Celia, then at Kimberly and Mrs. Paterson. He scowled. "No way! I still have the same opinions, as you call them. All this girl muscle is disgusting. Girls weren’t meant to have muscles. It looks wrong. It feels wrong. And the biggest thing is girls act all wrong when they’re all puffed out with muscle."

    "Jacob!" Celia said quietly, her voice singing out a threat. She leaned back and flexed her biceps, making sure Jacob had a good look at the way they stretched her sleeves.

    Jacob went on more loudly, defiantly. "Harold said what he did just because Celia here threatened us if we didn’t talk like we liked things now. She wants to make us her slaves or something. Dave Cummings, the football player too. It’s so typical. Girls want to control everything guys do, to treat us like we’re their babies. At least before we could fight back. Now with their big muscles, they’re just gonna do it more and more."

    Celia turned red and not from embarrassment. "What a crazy thing to say, Jacob! That’s so typical of you."

    "Is this true? Harold?"

    Harold turned as red as he could. "Yes," he said finally, looking at his desk. "She hurt Dave and me real bad yesterday. I couldn’t do anything to stop her," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. He felt ashamed and blinked to stop himself from crying. "I’d try to push her away and she didn’t even move. She’d just laugh and then practically throw me across the room. Look at her. Look how big she is. Even from yesterday she’s gotten stronger. When does it stop? She’s already stronger than I ever was, and all my muscle’s gone, turned to fat! And the girls just keep getting stronger and stronger. What are we guys supposed to DO?"

    Celia pushed her hands together, puffing out her chest and making her biceps bulge. "You guys are so dead after school!" she said quietly, but not quietly enough.

    "Celia Gerren! How dare you! This school will NOT allow bullying! You must know what the policies are." Mrs. Paterson said sharply.

    Celia stood up angrily. "Yeah? Well who protected ME when I was weak? It was always GIRLS’ responsibility not to do anything that provoked or aroused a boy, and if something happened it was like our fault. Now just because I was having a little fun with these guys, it’s like I’m the evil one!" She took a deep breath. "Boys are going to have to behave differently now. Somebody’s going to have to teach them to be more careful. To give us more respect and not interrupt us, like Kimberly said, or think they can tell us what to do, what’s right and wrong. I think I’m just doing guys like Jacob a favor by explaining the new rules to them."

    "Those are NOT the new rules, Celia," Mrs. Paterson retorted. "I think you need to have Principal Gregg explain them to you personally. I want you to leave class and go right to his office." Celia glared at her. "NOW, Celia."

    Celia smirked and stood up slowly. She gripped her desk, once again forcing her biceps and chest outward. None of the boys could stop staring at her, Harold and Jacob with the most intensity. A low groaning sound came from the bolts fastening the desktop to the legs as Celia bent them slightly out of position. Satisfied with her small act of vandalism, Celia snarled, "All right, MRS. Paterson!" and defiantly spun around and marched out of the room.

    Jeff’s mouth was wide open. He leaned over to Martin. "D-d-did you see THAT?! She’s HUGE. I’ve never SEEN muscles that big. Not even on a guy!" he whispered.

    "ESPECIALLY not on a guy!" Kimberly cracked much more loudly, smiling happily as she turned around to gauge Jacob’s reaction.

    "Kimberly! Girls!" Mrs. Paterson added as the girls joined in the laughter. "You should know better! We ALL have to adjust to this situation."

    "I’m not having any trouble adjusting," Theresa said with a smile.

    "Me neither!" Sandy echoed. "There’s nothing bad about being strong." She curled her arm, knowing every eye in the class was on her biceps, and slowly flexed her arm. A low murmur of admiration buzzed around the classroom at the sight of her rounded peaks, while Jeff blurted, "Jeez! Hers are even bigger than Celia’s."

    Jacob rolled his eyes and hit Jeff’s shoulder. "Well what do you expect, Jeff! Sandy’s the real jock, not the Pest."

    Martin shook his head at the sight of Sandy’s burgeoning muscle and then turned around to look at Michelle, who looked away, embarrassed. Then Martin’s eyes narrowed and he folded his thin arms over his chest as he turned back around.

    "Oh dear, it’s already ten o’clock! Everyone stand now and let’s walk QUIETLY to the auditorium. Jacob, you too! You’ll continue this after the assembly, with Ms. Knewsome assistance. Quietly please!"

    "Yes, Marilyn Knewsome. My friend from University," Juliet said, almost to herself as she lined up to leave the room. "She’ll be great!"

    "You know everyone and everything, don’t you, Juliet," Sandy said sarcastically, standing next to her on line.

    Juliet smiled. "Why yes! I do." She sniffed theatrically and walked out the door.

    Mr. Gregg was looking nervously at the four very large girls squeezed into the chairs opposite his desk. He was used to exercising authority over the students, and when he had still been six feet two inches tall he had felt confident doing so. But now, at 5’6" and without any of his accustomed muscle tone, he wondered what kind of impression he would make if he lectured them on their behavior. How would he make it sound commanding when he had to look up to them? Girls weren’t supposed to be so tall or so strong! These girls were already taller and more muscular than nearly any male high school student he’d ever dealt with. And this had been happening for only five days! What would they be like next week — next month! — if they kept developing at this rate?! How would he ever keep control of a school filled with girls like these? He tried to calm himself. Why should he be worrying about these girls? He had the whole student body to talk to! He had been up until almost two in the morning, writing and revising his speech to bring in the latest ideas that were circulating about the changes. Then he had slept for four hours, and by the time he had returned to his computer there were hundreds of new messages, two new papers from the NIH, a position paper from the NEA and editorials from major newspapers to consider. And then his wife started telling him to make changes based on the silly things she had heard on Oprah! It was too much!! Why had he listed to the guidance counselors’ advisory group and scheduled this assembly so soon? This was a rapidly changing situation. He should have waited at least until Monday. He looked up from his papers at the girls and frowned.

    Celia had just sat down on the little chair opposite the Principal’s desk and crossed her long, muscular legs in front of her. She looked indifferently at the Principal. Boy he looked nervous. And small. She flexed her muscles to show him what he was up against, but he had already stopped looking at her and had gone back to reading some papers on his desk. She turned her attention to the three other girls sitting in the office. Celia knew of them, but she didn’t know them. They were part of a group of students, boys and girls, who normally hung out together at one of the side entrances, smoking, skipping classes and generally harassing anyone who got too close to their territory. Celia had never entertained the idea that she would be in trouble along with them. But now it gave her an idea.

    Principal Gregg cleared his throat. "I’m — ahem — very unhappy that already you girls have been sent here for bullying. It is against school policy —

    "We KNOW what school policy is," one of the other girls said.

    "We don’t CARE what school policy is," another said, loudly popping a bubble.

    "Rules are made to be broken," said the third.

    "It’s ‘records are made to be broken’, Carla, not rules!" said the first.

    "They BOTH are, if you ask me!" Carla replied.

    Principle Gregg gritted his teeth. He did NOT need this now. He stated to stand up, then decided against it. He was too small standing up. He jabbed his finger in their direction. "Quiet! You girls … you just wait here, and I will personally explain the rules to you, AFTER our assembly." Their looks of boredom and indifference annoyed him even more, but he decided to leave it at that, for now. He cleared his throat again and left, without looking back, asking one of the secretaries to look into his office every so often to make sure the girls didn’t get into any more trouble.

    "Did you SEE him?" Celia asked. The other girls looked at her suspiciously. "Well, DID you? He’s scared to death of us!"

    "Yeah, maybe." The second girl looked at Celia suspiciously. "What are YOU doing here?" she asked. "You’re one of those goody girls, probably an ‘A’ student. Did the teacher send you here because you got an A minus or something?" The other two laughed.

    Celia stared back. "No. For bullying. Harold Carswell. And a few other guys."

    "You mean the football player?" asked Carla.

    "Yeah. The EX-football player." The other girls laughed. "Not that it was so hard. I mean, you know what boys are like now. But it was fun."

    The first girl raised her eyebrows. "Really? You enjoy that sort of stuff? I’ve seen you around. I didn’t think girls like you got off on that shit. You know, pushing people around." She looked at her friends. "I’m Mel. Short for Melanie. I hate that name so don’t EVER call me it. And this is Beth and Carla."

    "I’m Celia. I, yeah, I like it. What’s not to like? Some of these guys are such turds."

    "Turds. Yeah. I like that. She’s all right," Mel said to her friends.

    "I was thinking. We should start a gang or something," Celia said.

    "What do you mean? We’re uh, kind of in a gang already," Mel said.

    "Yeah, you might’ve noticed," Beth added, fingering the insignia on her sleeve.

    "Oh, I know. You and the other guys and girls who hang out near the shop entrance. But I mean just for girls." Celia made a fist and flexed her muscle. "You know, the strong ones?"

    "Hey, nice biceps, Seal!" Carla said, admiringly. "Look at her biceps!"

    Celia hated the name "Seal" but stifled the urge to correct her. "Yeah, thanks. Listen, you know we girls can build up our muscle really fast now. If we got together a gang of girls and we all worked out a lot, pretty soon we’d be by far the strongest in the school. Maybe in the town. And if we worked together, we’d be unstoppable. Untouchable. It could be a lot of fun."

    "What about the boys in our gang now? What are they going to say if we get, like super-muscular. They won’t like that at all," Beth said. You know what guys are like. They want to be in charge and all. And besides, they’re our friends."

    "So, where are they going to go to find girls who don’t have muscle? It’s not like they’re going to start dating Julia Roberts instead. And what do you think SHE looks like these days?"

    "Julia Roberts! Right! You think Joey’s going to start going out with some movie star, Beth?" Carla laughed.

    "Face facts. Boys are NOT going to be in charge anymore. Anywhere. Did you see how Gregg was acting before? Boys — and men too — are going to take one look at biceps like these," she demonstrated again, "and they’re going to be listening to us girls. They’d better!" The others laughed nervously. Beth felt her biceps and flexed them privately. "I wasn’t particularly muscular before — not that I was some kind of weakling or anything but I never worked out. THESE are muscles I’ve got since just Saturday."

    "But lifting weights is so boring! And it makes your arms hurt," Carla said. Mel and Beth looked at her in surprise. "Sal make me go with him once," she explained. "He wanted to have a laugh to see how much I could lift." Her eyes narrowed. "He wasn’t very nice about it, and I told him I wouldn’t go with him to that gym ever again!"

    "It’s different now, I swear," Celia said. "First, no boy is going to make fun of you. How could they? You’re probably already bigger than nearly all of them. Second, working out feels GOOD. The more you do it, the more you want to." The three girls looked at her skeptically. "Try it! Come on, one of you. Let’s do some push-ups together."

    Beth and Carla looked at each other and made a face about how crazy Celia was, but Mel said, "Hey, what do I have to lose?"

    She and Celia got down on the floor, Celia with her hands and her feet on the floor and Mel with her knees touching the floor. "No, Mel. Do it the boys’ way. You’re strong enough. Believe me."

    Mel shrugged and then did as Celia suggested. Beth and Carla rolled their eyes and sniggered. "That’s enough, you two." And then to Celia, "If you make me look bad, Seal, you’re gonna be real sorry!"

    "Um, okay. Let’s start slow." Celia started pushing up and down, once every five seconds and after a moment’s hesitation Mel did the same.

    "This isn’t so hard," Mel said.

    "Can you go faster?" Celia asked.

    "If you can," Mel replied.

    Celia sped up and Mel followed until they were bouncing up and down every two seconds. "How’s that?" Celia asked.

    "Not bad," Mel said, her breathing a little labored. "My arms are getting a little tired, but I DO feel good."

    "Pick up the pace. Just ten more!" Celia said, now bouncing up and down nearly every second. Mel followed as fast as she could and then they stopped.

    "Whew!" Mel said. "How many did we do?"

    "I think it was forty!" Beth said. "That was amazing. I bet your arms are killing you, though."

    "Uh uh! They feel fine. And my whole body feels good. Glowing or something."

    "That’s what I was telling you," Celia said. "It happens every time I work out. And all the girls are saying it."

    "You mean, you’ve talked to every girl?" Carla said. "You never talked to us before today."

    "No, I just mean — it’s all on the ‘net."

    "So, like, you read what all the girls —

    "Can it, Carla. Seal’s on to something, okay? My arms feel really good. So what’s your idea, Seal?"

    "Um, look. No one has to do it if they don’t want to. But if we had five girls who wanted to work together and get really strong, as I said, we’d be unstoppable."

    "And you want to run this thing? You think you should be the leader?"

    "Uh, both of us, Mel. You and I."

    "You and me, hmm? What do you think, Beth? You in? Carla?"

    "If you say so, Mel. If it feels as good as you say then sure. Why not?"


    "I don’t know."

    "Hey Beth, what if Joey starts deciding he likes muscle on a girl? Then what are you going to do?"

    "You’re crazy, Carla. Joey wouldn’t like that."

    "Joey likes anything with tits and a good ass, Beth."

    Celia cleared her throat. "I’ve been reading on the web that a lot of men are starting to look at girls’ biceps as much as their breasts. They say that men develop a sexual interest in whatever is different about women’s bodies from men’s. It’s a kind of homophobia, so that they make sure they’re seen as attracted to things that prove they’re interested in women and men. That’s why they –"

    "Homosexuals? What are you talking about? Are you saying all guys are gay?" Carla interrupted.

    "No, no. HomoPHOBIA. It’s the opposite. It’s —

    "You think guys actually have to think about what makes a girl different? You don’t know guys at all, Seal!"

    "No. It’s not like that. They don’t actually think about it. It’s instinctive, it’s —

    Mel was laughing to herself. "Seal’s just saying guys are going to start liking muscles ’cause that’s what girls’ll have. Right?" Mel said. Celia nodded reluctantly. "And if I know anything about guys, it’s that whatever they like, the bigger it is, the better. You know, Beth?"

    "Yeah, maybe."

    "So if you don’t start getting big, some other girl is going to grab Joey away from you. And then what are you gonna do?"

    "No fucking way THAT’S gonna happen!"

    "All right then! So, Seal, where do we work out? You gonna buy us all gym memberships or something?"

    "I, uh, have some stuff at my house. We could all go there after school."

    "If you’re right, we’re gonna be LIVING at your house, Seal. Not just us. I got eight more girls who’ll want in. This is gonna be fun!"

    Principal Gregg tapped on the microphone to quiet the students. He looked around at them, all of them in clothes even more ill-fitting than usual. A few of the boys were looking up at him expectantly, hoping to hear some good news. A much smaller percentage of girls showed any interest, just the good, docile ones, but there seemed to be fewer of them than usual. He could usually count of them to set an example, even if most of the other students hated them. Now the girls were even less well-behaved than the boys. He tapped twice more on the mike and cleared his voice.

    "Students! Boys. Girls. Let’s settle down please. Let’s — we’ve got a lot to cover this morning. Please."

    There was a slight reduction in the volume of noise. He took that as a sign to begin.

    "You all know why we’re here. Looking around at each other, and at ourselves, we can all see today the evidence of changes in the human race more profound than anything ever experienced in human history. It’s happened to all of us. We have been present at a history making experience, when the relationship between the sexes has been turned on its head. We were there!"

    "But this is bigger than history. This is bigger than our own identities, our sense of ourselves. Think about it. What has happened has not only upset our own images of who we are and who our friends and classmates and parents are, but has challenged our very understanding of science. Of how the world works. We live in an age of science. We rely on science to explain everything, to solve our problems, to provide the structure of how to understand our lives. And yet science cannot explain the first thing about what has happened to us. Science cannot. And I cannot."

    The students were quiet now. He’d gotten their attention!

    "Then what are we here for?" one boy called out, breaking the mood. "And why do I have to go to science class, if it’s totally useless! School dismissed!" There was a round of laughter.

    He tried to control his anger. No! He could use that! "Why ARE you here? Why are you all here?" he echoed. "You’re here to learn. But this time not from a textbook. Not just from teachers or even from me. But from each other. This is new to all of us. Today, and perhaps for the next several days, school will be an opportunity to pool our minds and learn something completely new to all of us. About what has changed about us and what has stayed the same. And the only ones who can teach us are … each of us."

    A tall blond girl at the side of the auditorium was shaking her head angrily and raising her hand. Who was that? It was so hard to tell who the students were. They all looked so different. Was that Marcy Johnston? She was usually well behaved. Should he let her speak? No. He had a rhythm going. Maybe later.

    "Not now, Marcy. Later we will —

    She stood up. "It’s not right. What you’re saying. It’s obvious, isn’t it? Science IS useless. It’s a sign. This is the end time, the last days. This is a sign from the Lord. We mustn’t waste time. We have nothing to teach each other. Jesus has shown us that what we know of this world has no value. It is only what we know of Him that matters."

    The students started laughing and booing her, except for a few others sitting near her.

    "Marcy! Marcy! Sit down. This is not the time. We have rules. We …." He looked over at one of the female guidance counselors and motioned her to go down and get Marcy to sit down again. "Excuse me, students. Listen. Please."

    He looked at his notes. Where was he? "Let’s discuss a few facts first. Based on some very preliminary surveys, the average height of an American adult male used to be 5’10". He is now, on average, 5’3". The average adult woman has grown from 5’5" to 6′. The difference in this school is even more extreme, perhaps because of the difference in maturation patterns between males and females, perhaps because the effects on younger people are greater, perhaps —

    "Perhaps you and the fucking scientists don’t know fuck-all!" one boy called out angrily. There was a brief cheer from the girls.

    He frowned but decided this once to let the obscenity pass. "Perhaps they don’t. There’s more. At Stanford University, just yesterday, as an experiment, the women’s track and field team broke every world’s record for their events. One young woman who had not even qualified for the Olympic team, ran 100 meters in 9.3 seconds. Another woman ran the mile in three minutes, twenty six seconds, beating the world record time by 17 seconds. Not only are females becoming taller and stronger, but they are becoming taller and stronger than males have ever been. Some people thought that we were reaching the limits of sports performance for the human body, or at least the limits of the natural human body. Now, suddenly, we have no idea what those limits are. Or, to be more precise what the limits of the female body are. We have absolutely no idea."

    "I’ve told you about things we don’t know. But here’s a few things we do know." He held up a set of news articles printed from the internet. "These are all from newspapers around the state, from Atlantic City, to Cherry Hill, Newark, New Brunswick, and even Princeton. You can’t read the headlines from there, but I’ll tell you what they say: New Brunswick: ‘Battered Husband Won’t Walk Again’; Atlantic City: ‘Former Showgirls Rampage Casino, Manager and 2 Security Guards Dead’; Newark: "’Eleven Year Old Girl Fatally Beats Burglars Who Attacked Father’; and this one Cherry Hill: ‘Cheerleader Tackles Fullback, He Won’t Walk Again’ Should I go on?" The auditorium was silent, for a change. He paused to drive home the effect. "This must not happen here. Not in our school. Not in our community. Whatever the boys have done. Whatever the girls may feel. There is no excuse, in the law or in our morality, of ‘not knowing my own strength.’ The scientists may not know why females have become strong, but we know you ARE strong. Incredibly strong, with the seeming ability to get stronger, more quickly and with less effort, than boys used to need. And with that strength comes responsibility. Responsibility not to use your strength to dominate, intimidate or harm, but to help." There were a few snickers.

    "Some of us have more muscle now, some of us have less. Some of us are taller, some are shorter. And yet we are the same persons inside. We have to reach out to each other in friendship and help each other adjust. I know you are all up to it." He waited for applause and when it didn’t come he cleared his throat. Oh well. He couldn’t expect them to appreciate him. Still he was satisfied. He’d gotten through the speech with a minimum of interruptions. Now was the part he dreaded. "I, uh, want to turn this over now for a brief presentation by Ms. Dooda, our school Health and Fitness Counselor." Melanie Dooda was the one who had insisted on this assembly and on making her own presentation. He had insisted she review it with him beforehand and it seemed inoffensive enough, but he was still nervous. She always pushed the limits, and her approach toward sex education, contraception, abortion and feminism and nearly cost the two of them their jobs several times. Still, she was effective. There hadn’t been a student birth since she was hired four years ago. She was young, attractive and surprisingly popular among the students. So, he had to let her speak.

    Ms. Dooda walked briskly to the podium. Always a tall and fit woman, she now towered over Principal Gregg and the outlines of her muscular shoulders and arms were very clear inside her tight top, which showed just a hint of her cleavage. She looked down at him, suppressed a smile as he walked away to sit down and then glanced down at the podium and at the microphone, which were nearly two feet below her head. She made a face and pulled the mike upwards, unintentionally snapping it and its stand off the podium and making a loud cracking noise that reverberated through the auditorium.

    She raised an eyebrow in slight surprise and then cracked a smile. "Hmmph! I suppose that’ll wake you up!"

    There was a slight murmur of laughter.

    "Okay then." She looked around. "I know some of you feel you have to leave the room whenever I speak — those of you whose parents object to sex education and learning about your bodies. Well, leave now if you must. I’ll wait to speak until you’re safely out of the room so you don’t hear anything you’re not supposed to." She drummed her fingers against the podium impatiently while Marcy and a few others left. "All right then. Except for the freshmen, you’ve all seen me in Health classes and some of you have studied Lifetime Fitness with me. You know I tell it straight, right? I give you the facts you need to know about your bodies, so you can make smart choices."

    She looked around the auditorium. "Now, some facts. "Cecile Bloom come up please. Yes. And Frank Collins, yes, Frank, please, thank you. Cecile Bloom and Frank Collins are, as all of you know, two of our most popular students and both good athletes, Cecile as a cheerleader and Frank as a quarterback." There was some snickering as the two reached the stage and Frank stood next to Cecile, the top of his head barely reaching her broad shoulders. Many students had not seen him since the last football game and were surprised to see him looking like a twelve year old boy standing next to a pro football fullback. But this fullback had breasts, long blond hair, eye shadow and purple fingernails.

    Cecile looked down at Frank and tried to keep from smiling, but she wasn’t much of an actress. Why, he was even shorter and slighter than her boyfriend, Dave! Such a little boy, with a cute little butt!

    Principal Gregg turned to look at Ms. Dooda. This wasn’t the presentation she had showed him! He tried to signal her, but she was ignoring him, focusing all her attention on the students in front of her. How dare she! He wanted to get up and take away the mike, but even before this week’s changes she always knew just how to make him look ridiculous. Now if he tried to take the mike, she’d have him looking like a small child, trying to grab away a treat! There was no way to stop her. He turned his face back to the students, trying not to let anyone see he had lost control.

    "No laughter, please! As Principal Gregg reminded us, we are here to learn from each other." The tittering continued. "Come ON, boys and girls. These are your fellow students. Any two of you could be standing up here right now. Any two of you would present the same picture, or one where the differences were even greater. But I’m not asking for your consideration. Or for your politeness. I know you better than that!"

    The students quieted down slightly, curious to find out what she would say.

    "All I am asking you for is to observe and listen. And we all see best with our eyes open and hear best with our mouths — what?" She held her arm out to the crowd in a gesture that was familiar to them all.

    "Closed!" half of them said out loud, remembering her corny refrain from Health class.

    "Thank you." She said with a theatrical emphasis and walked next to across the stage to Cecile’s side and then to Frank’s. "Each of these fine students have spent many years training their bodies, developing their strength and their athletic skills as well as their teamwork and leadership abilities. Because both football AND cheerleading require these things. We have seen the results of their dedication on the football field, the basketball court, at cheerleading competitions, even at baseball and softball. No matter how their bodies have changed they deserve our admiration and applause for what they’ve done."

    She clapped her hands and most of the students, and Principal Gregg, joined her. The Principal was feeling relieved and much more relaxed. So far, so good. If she had only cleared her little speech with him first, he wouldn’t have had to get so nervous!

    "Oh yes! We’ve admired them, and we still admire them. We admire their dedication. We admire their bodies. We can’t help it, can we! We all have strong reactions to our new bodies and those of our fellow students. Some may be reactions of disgust. Perhaps others of lust." Principal Gregg turned red at this word, but Ms. Dooda looked at the two students on the stage and then went on with enthusiasm. "But for most of us, I think it’s the latter. I mean, how could you NOT feel desire, looking at their fine young bodies! You are young, healthy, beautiful boys and girls! Your bodies are bursting with hormones. You have feelings, drives, loves and hates that you have just begun to experience and that are striving to master, whether to express them or control them. How many of you boys, looking at Cecile, can honestly say that you do not feel desire for her? Hands please? No one? I thought so. And girls, how many of you don’t find Frank just as cute as before?" She smiled. "Come, come, I know you’re not shy."

    "Cuter!" one girl called out, followed by an echo of nervous laughter.

    "Of course he is!"

    Principal Gregg stood up. "Mrs. Dooda. I must insist …." He started toward her, frowning. Without a mike, his voice barely carried beyond the front row.

    "John. What I have to say is important. You can fire me afterwards, if you feel you need to, but I WILL finish."

    The students were hushed. Was this contest really going on right in front of them? Would Principal Gregg really cut her off? What was going to do? Take the mike away? Cut off the power? Unlike their attitude while the Principal spoke before, now they strained to hear him, but the mike picked up only certain words.

    He pointed at her. "I just don’t think … appropriate to … to treat these … as though … objects."

    "They are certainly NOT sex objects," she said loudly, deliberately distorting his words with her amplified voice filling the room. "They are individuals whose lives have just changed in a massive way. And we are affirming that they still are admired, still are attractive. As ALL of you are!" she added, her long arm sweeping in an arc to take in all the students in the auditorium.

    Principal Gregg blushed. That wasn’t at all what he’d said but only a dozen people knew that, and short of wrestling Ms. Dooda down (hah!) there was no way he was going to stop her from speaking. He was only making it worse. He sat down, defeated, and just looked cross.

    "But, for a moment, let’s look upon Frank and Cecile not only as the individuals we know and admire, but as symbols of male and female, of teenage boys and girls, and ask ourselves, ‘what is a boy?’ ‘What is a girl?’"

    The audience looked at her attentively. They didn’t know where she was going with this, but they wanted to know. Principal Gregg didn’t know either. But unlike them he DIDN’T want to know. He knew trouble was on the way.

    "What is a boy now? Look at Frank closely. An ideal male specimen. Handsome, athletic, disciplined, honest. A straight body. A straight arrow. But ‘strong, silent type’ won’t work anymore. Now it’s ‘strong’, but just ‘for a boy.’"

    Frank unconsciously felt his shrunken biceps to the nervous laughter of many in the audience.

    "And what will happen to the other male stereotypes? The typical characteristics? How will boys distinguish themselves? How will they form their identity, their ideal, now that they’re no longer physically stronger? They’re shorter than girls as you all know, lead shorter lives, are physically more fragile, more vulnerable to disease, their muscles scarcely visible. Boys have always sought to dominate by the presence, the threat of physical strength. Silence was enough. How will they assert their will now? What will they do to make a girl listen? How will they get what they want?"

    The room was quiet, staring at Frank, wondering at Ms. Dooda’s questions.

    "What is a girl? Look at Cecile. A classic blonde beauty. A kind, gentle girl with all the prized feminine curves. Sweet and seductive. Caring and sensitive. But now with hard bulging muscular roundness along with her lovely breasts and hips."

    At this, Cecile seemed to stand even straighter, her proud bust thrusting out even more.

    "With her disposition and her beauty, Cecile has never lacked admirers. But now with her growing strength, does she prefer to attract boys or take them? What will be more important, the reactions she gets or the actions she takes?"

    "Boys have always been more stimulated by appearance. Will you still look at Cecile’s breasts, her narrow waist, her lovely … derriere as signs of her health and fitness. Or also at her burgeoning biceps, her diamond-hard calves? Will you thrill more to the softness of her lips and her bust, or the power of her arms as she lifts —

    "MS. DOODA!!" Principal Gregg sputtered and stood up. YOU CAN’T —

    Ms. Dooda looked down at the Principal and smiled. "How about you, John? You’re certainly VERY aroused, as we ALL can see. Is it Cecile’s muscles or her breasts that interest YOU more? Or perhaps mine?" Ms. Dooda batted her eyes while flexing her pectoral muscles, her chest expanding so that more — a lot more — of her breasts were suddenly visible. The Principal colored deep red and sat down, crossing his hands over his lap.

    "You can’t …." he started and then closed his mouth.

    "I think I’ve made my point. Girls are still attractive to boys, perhaps more so than ever. And we know you girls still find boys as cute as ever. Some say even more so."

    "So, is there a problem? I know some boys think they’ve gotten a raw deal. That the lives they expected have been taken from them. Their enjoyment of sport, their sense of themselves as men, their role in relationships, even in society. What do you think, Frank?"

    Frank was startled. It was bad enough standing in front as the exemplar of the weakened male. Was he supposed to speak to the whole school about his feelings too?

    "Well, yeah. Sure. It’s not, you know, the same. I mean, being smaller all of a sudden. It’s like I’m a … a …."

    He didn’t want to say it, but Ms. Dooda knew what he meant and continued "…just a kid? A little boy?". There was some laughter from the girls, but not too much. "Of course that’s NOT true, Frank. Not for you or for ANY of the boys."

    "But you girls keep saying we’re ‘cute’. That’s, I don’t know … demeaning!" Frank protested, finding the word he wanted.

    "Girls have ALWAYS referred to boys that way, even boys who were 10" taller than they were and 80 pounds heavier. It’s nothing new. It has nothing to do with your being the smaller sex."

    "Yeah, well it feels different now," he said, maintaining his position.

    "Yes, I can see that some boys may feel that way," she agreed, "and this is something we will all have to discuss and be aware of. Cecile, do you have anything to add? What do you think of the changes?"

    "Um, well, at first I didn’t like them. Not at all. I thought that, well, muscles on girls were ugly."

    "Do you still feel that way?"

    Cecile smiled. "No. Not at all. I think they’re, well, I mean, I think boys think that they’re, uh, sexy on us." She blushed and looked at Dave in the audience and smiled at him. "So, I guess if they think they’re sexy, I must have been wrong about it," she concluded and laughed nervously a little.

    "Do you think that they way boys look at your muscles is different from the way you used to feel about a boy’s muscles?"

    Cecile shrugged. "Well yeah. I think so. Because I never really looked at boy’s muscles exactly, not the way I see the boys look at mine, kind of the way they look at your, you know." She blushed again and looked down at her well-developed chest. "I mean, I like a boy with, you know, a good body, but it’s wasn’t the size of his muscles that was important. It’s more kind of the overall look, and how he is and how he acts. Boys, uh, I think like, uh, things on a girl, you know, to be … big. You know what I mean."

    There was a good sprinkling of laughter throughout the room and Mrs. Dooda smiled. "I certainly do, and from the nods I see from the other girls I think they do too. It’s something most boys don’t understand, at least not at this age and it’s important that they hear it, especially from a girl as pretty and popular as you are. Thanks Cecile, and Frank. I hope I haven’t embarrassed you, but I think it’s important for everyone to hear your concerns and your feelings, and to know that you’re not alone in the things you worry about, that whatever may happen as a result of these unexplained changes you are still, young, vital boys and girls and that you are still attractive to each other."

    "Now, I think we’ve done enough for now. I know I speak for both myself and Principal Gregg in asking each of you return quickly and quietly to the class you were in before the assembly, where you will have a discussion day with specially trained counselors from our area colleges."

    The students stood up and immediately a loud buzz filled the room as they filed out of the auditorium talking about the program.

    "That’s it?!!" Martin snorted loudly enough for Michelle in front of him and Jacob behind him to hear. "That was just totally useless!"

    Michelle turned around. "I don’t think so Martin. I thought it was very good of him to take the time out from schoolwork so that we could all focus on what was happening. To help us get used to it. And the speeches were a good start."

    "You KNOW they don’t have a clue about what’s happening. How can you even listen to them pretend they do?"

    "Martin!" she said anxiously, mortified that he might talk about the pendant but unable to say that out loud. "They’re doing the best they can." She held her breath as he stared at her but kept his mouth closed.

    "I bet Michelle thinks Martin’s ‘cute’ when he gets mad," Jacob interjected, teasing them both.

    "Shut up, Jacob," Martin said hotly. "You are such a pain!"

    Michelle put her arm in Martin’s, hoping that Jacob’s remark would distract Martin from saying any more. "You sure are," she said quickly to support Martin. Martin turned to her and frowned. He didn’t need her to back him up. But Michelle’s heart leapt when he didn’t pull his arm away. Maybe he wasn’t THAT mad at her.

    Mrs. Paterson stood behind her desk. She looked around for her stick to quiet the class, remembered she had broken it, and then wrapped her fist on the top of her desk. "Class. Class! Please settle down. I’m going to introduce Miss Knewsome, who will lead this discussion for the rest of the day. To help promote an open and confidential atmosphere, all the regular school teachers will leave their room to have their own meetings today, so I will leave you in Miss Knewsome’s hands. I expect you to display your best behavior. And remember, we will discuss pages 119-135 in your text tomorrow. Please be prepared to answer the question: was the first world war inevitable?"

    Juliet rolled her eyes but didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to. She made her expression clear enough. Mrs. Paterson had seen her and already turned red and pursed her lips in anger. But Juliet knew she wouldn’t dare do anything. What an idiot she was! And what a wimp! Then Marilyn walked into the room.

    "Class, this is Miss Knewsome, who is studying for her doctorate in psychology at Rutgers. She has experience leading group discussions in various contexts and, uh, like the rest of us is adapting to the changes we’ve all experienced. I hope you all make her feel welcome and that you make the most of your opportunity today to explore what the changes mean to you, and to your classmates." Mrs. Paterson shook Marilyn’s hand and then left, lingering by the door momentarily until Marilyn closed it firmly.

    Marilyn stood up front and looked around the room. "Group disc

    Mark Newman

    Wednesday is so long that I’ll be posting it in three parts. The next part is nearly all written and will be up during the week of April 4.



    Mark Newman

    Looks as though I hit a limit and the posting of the first part ended before it should have. Here’s the rest of Wedneday until Lunch.

    "I wasn’t finished," Mark said. "I just said that as an introduction. My point was, even as a fantasy, this whole thing feels … weird." He held out his thin arms. "I keep saying to myself, ‘This isn’t me. These can’t be my arms.’ But they are. I can’t really believe it."

    "So, you’re saying that even though this fulfils a fantasy you have, it still isn’t the way you see yourself."


    Kimberly raised her hand. "I don’t get it. He’s saying, for some reason, that he fantasizes about girls being really strong, stronger than boys, like we are now, but now that it’s happened he doesn’t like it. Oh, I’m Kimberly. I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t make any sense."

    "I’m saying that I never wanted to be a weakling!" Mark protested. "I just like, uh —

    "Thinking about it while you jerk off?" Celia said, laughing. She leaned back in her seat, puffing out her chest and flexing again. "Well, THIS will give you something to think about, I bet." Mark’s face turned deep red, but he still looked at Celia in rapt amazement.

    "That isn’t the kind of contribution I’m looking for, Celia. Now, it does make sense, Kimberly. It’s not unusual to have a fantasy and to keep it compartmentalized from daily life. Many adults have secret fantasies. Women may even have rape fantasies, for example, without wanting to be actually raped. Usually a fantasy includes an element of control of the situation, which is not the case here." At this, Martin shot Michelle a look. "Well, thanks for your contribution, Mark."

    "Well I DEFINITELY am not seeing myself this way," said Harold. "Suddenly I’m a flabby black boy with a beer belly, and I don’t even drink beer. I can hardly stand to get out of bed in the morning looking like this," he said glumly. "I’m supposed to be a football player. How am I going to go to college now? I’m just a shrimp. A weakling, like Mark says. I want somebody to give me some reasons why I shouldn’t end it all as soon as I get home. I mean, what am I supposed to do?"

    "Your name is –"

    "Harold. Harold Simmons."

    "Thank you, Harold. That’s a very difficult problem you have, a terrible problem. It’s not just a matter of self-image you’re talking about, although that’s part of it too. Your career plans, your college plans, your daily life cannot continue as they have. Somehow you have to come up with a new plan, and it won’t be easy. I hope no one underestimates how hard this adjustment is for the boys, and for some, who relied heavily on their physical prowess, it is even harder than for most."

    Kimberly looked sympathetically at Harold. "That IS tough Harold. Well, maybe you can play other sports?"

    Harold scowled. "With this body? And even if I manage to get it into shape, what are schools going to do about sports programs for boys? All the money, all the attention is just going to go to girls now, like you and Sandy."

    Sandy looked down at her desk. Kimberly replied, "I know that seems unfair, but the other side of it, you know, is that Sandy and I never had those opportunities. Maybe now we will. I’m sorry for you, but you have to admit that you’re just having to deal with what we’ve always had to do. I mean, no matter how good we were in sports, with just a few exceptions we’d never be able to make a living out it. Now we might be."

    "Oh, I’m really happy for you," Harold said sarcastically.

    "Yeah, well I’m not gloating, Harold, but, you know …." Kimberly said.

    "There are probably a lot of sport-related things you could do, even if you can’t play well anymore. Maybe you could be a coach," Cecile suggested. "Or a scorekeeper? Or a cheerleader?"

    There was an uncomfortable silence…. Marilyn spoke up. "This is very good. You’re all doing very well expressing yourselves. Identity, you know, is a fluid thing. We get our identity from the way we look, the way we think, what we do, how others look at us. Whenever any of these changes, and they do change frequently throughout our lives, we’re challenged to rethink our sense of ourselves. I want to turn now to the second statement to explore another side of identity. ‘Now that this has happened, I’m not a real girl/boy anymore.’ Who has some thoughts about this? Cecile, would you like to add more to what you said before?"

    Cecile shrugged. "I don’t know. Um, my first reaction, you know, was that I wasn’t a real girl anymore. Not with these big muscles that kept growing, whatever I did. And not with being so much bigger than my boyfriend."

    "And now?"

    "Well, I guess it still doesn’t feel very, you know, feminine. But like I said before, my boyfriend still likes me, so maybe it’s ok."

    "Maybe your boyfriend is a little confused — like Mark here," Jacob smirked. He looked around. "I’m Jacob," he announced.

    "So, Jacob, does that remark mean you don’t feel like a real boy anymore?" Marilyn asked.


    "Why not?"

    "Isn’t that obvious? ‘Cause I’ve got muscles like a girl! Because girls like Celia there can beat me up. Easily. That’s why." He glared at Celia, who shot back a look of complete indifference.

    Marilyn noticed the tension between them and decided not to pursue it, at least not now. She looked around the room to move the discussion elsewhere. "I see. Juliet. Do you have an opinion about this?"

    Juliet shrugged. This topic didn’t interest her. "I don’t think having muscles or height should have anything to do with feeling like a girl, or a boy. So I disagree. Strongly."

    "But height and muscle ARE secondary sex characteristics," Marilyn replied.

    "Yes. Secondary," Juliet repeated, with emphasis. "I’ve always been taller and stronger than most girls, and even some boys. I don’t feel any less feminine because of that. I’m also pretty aggressive. Is that supposed to make me feel less like a girl? You’re tall and athletic. Does that make you less of a girl?"

    "No, but we are talking about feelings here, Juliet, not facts," she said, trying to speak gently. "We are all individuals, with our own reactions. Jacob’s feelings aren’t wrong, nor are yours, mine or Cecile’s. You may have a different sense of what being feminine means than Cecile, but they are both proper subjects for our discussion."

    "I suppose. But to me it’s irrelevant. The whole situation is pretty simple. I used to be a strong woman. Now I’m even stronger. I can’t see anything bad about that. And from the perspective of the boys, well, there’s nothing good about being weak. They can either build themselves up again or, if they can’t, then they’ll just have to live with it. They’ll have to adapt. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is."

    "Adapt is a good word. How have you all ‘adapted’ so far to the changes? Or what have you seen other people do that makes sense?"

    "Theresa. Well, I’d say my brothers sure have adapted. They used to make me serve them. And they would beat ME up whatever I did. Now the tables are turned. Completely. And I’d say they’re adapting VERY well," she said, pleased with her contribution.

    "So, what are you saying? That boys have to be subservient to girls now? Their slaves?" Martin said angrily. "Just because all of a sudden girls have these fucking big muscles."

    Theresa laughed. "YOU don’t have be, Martin. It’s not up to me. I’m just saying it worked for my brothers. And, to be honest, I think a lot of guys will find it’s their only option."

    "So, that’s what you girls wanted?" Martin asked.

    Several replied at the same time.

    "Of course not, Martin!" Michelle said.

    "Well …." purred Theresa.

    "Hey, why not?" said Sandy. "Guys could learn a bit of humility and how to please, instead of being so pushy and arrogant."

    "Sounds good to me," said Celia.

    "Well, this isn’t exactly what I was talking about," said Marilyn. "Think about the little customs and patterns society developed in the past to deal with the differences between men and women. Rules about boys not hitting girls. Rules of courtesy."

    "Rules that were broken all the time. At least in MY house!" Theresa said hotly. "Fucking big muscles are a lot more useful than your little customs!"

    "That’s a fair comment, Theresa. And I of course don’t know the specifics of your situation. But most of you don’t live in such a difficult environment. Most of us are a bit lost in finding new ways to relate to each other that reflect the changes in our bodies. We don’t know the new rules. No one does. And while force and muscle can be one way to set rules, in a civilized society they hopefully will not be the final word."

    "I’m Michelle. What about places like we were talking about in our last class? Like Saudi Arabia. Women are like slaves there, or at least they were, right? I don’t exactly know what’s going on there now. Are you saying those places aren’t civilized?"

    "Hmmmm. I do have an opinion on that, of course, but I’ll leave that for your history class, or some other one. I’m talking about the way we live here. In this town. My point is just that what has happened to us was beyond our control. What is within our control is how we react. Some people react by taking advantage, using their new muscle to force others to give them what they want. Some who have lost power may react by hiding in fear, withdrawing from confrontations they are bound to lose. Neither is a healthy response, not in our society. We have to find ways to adapt, new ways to behave. We have to accept what is beyond our control. But not everything is beyond our control."

    "A lot less than you think!" Martin muttered.

    Michelle turned to him in horror.

    "What was that, Martin?" Marilyn said.

    "Oh, nothing. Some people here know what I mean," he said.

    Michelle turned deep red.

    Everyone noticed.

    Marilyn cleared her throat. "Well, I certainly don’t. Unless you want to clarify that, Martin, I want to move back to the point about adapting, just briefly before we have to break for lunch." She looked at him and Michelle and when they didn’t respond, she went on, "Can anyone think of some positive adaptive behaviors that you can adopt?"

    "Like girls opening doors for guys? Or carrying things when they’re too heavy?" Cecile suggested.

    "Possibly. Any others?"

    "I still think guys have to learn to consider more what girls want. Most of the times you guys just do what you want and assume the girls are going to go along." Kimberly said.

    "What, because you’ll beat us up if we get it wrong?" Jacob said.

    "No. But, the fact is, well, Celia and Theresa have a point. Even when guys don’t, I mean didn’t, directly use their strength to make us do stuff, we always knew they could. So you kind of had to learn how to keep them happy. Since we DON’T have to do that anymore, and they, at least in the back of their minds, are going to have to. It’s just going to happen. So I guess they are going have to be more intuitive about what girls are thinking and feeling. That’s an adaptive behavior, right?"

    Marilyn nodded. "It probably is."

    Sandy spoke up. "Well, I feel bad for Harold too, but guys are going to have to find things to do other than sports. Or at least male sports are going to be a lot less important. And we girls are probably going to have a lot more opportunities that way."

    "Absolutely!" Kimberly agreed. "Exercising, working out is so much more fun for me now. I can’t explain it, but when I start running I get this exhilarating feeling right away. That’s going to make me work out even more and get even stronger and in better shape." Several of the girls were nodding in agreement. "Yeah. So I think that girls are going to end up much stronger than boys EVER were, and the differences between male and female sports will be much more than they ever were before. I run every morning, and the number of boys going out is going down every day. This morning there were just two of them. Maybe what’s happening to them is the exact opposite of what happened to us, and they get no pleasure at all from working out. If that’s right, I bet boys will get totally discouraged and drop sports completely and end up even weaker. So we can’t assume males and females will just switch roles. It’ll be even more extreme than before, with girls just getting so much stronger than guys."

    Mark was looking at Theresa and at Sandy and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He put his hands in his pockets.

    "That’s all just your speculation," Harold said. "You don’t know that."

    "Maybe," Sandy said. "How much time have YOU spent working out this week?"

    "I can’t. The training room’s been locked."

    "And that’s the ONLY reason?" she said, goading him. "Already I can lift more than you and Frank ever did. And it’s been just six days since –"

    She stopped abruptly.

    "Since what?" Jacob said.

    "Since, uh, since I started feeling different," Sandy said, with less enthusiasm. She looked quickly at Michelle and Theresa and then down at her desk.

    "These girls act like they know something," said Jacob. "What’s going on here? Some kind of female conspiracy?" He looked at Michelle, then Sandy and Celia and back at Marilyn. "What aren’t you telling us?"

    "There’s no conspiracy, Jacob! Of course there isn’t," Marilyn declared. "I can understand why you boys feel angry about what happened, but there’s no reason to think the girls caused these changes. How would they?" The room was silent. "At times like these, many people do want to find someone to blame. But honestly, boys, how could anyone here in this room be responsible for something that happened all over the world? It’s not logical."

    "Yeah, it would have to be, like, magic." Martin said sarcastically. Michelle first glared at him, then her eyes softened into a pleading look. He grimaced and turned away from her.

    The bell rang. "Right. I think we’re exposing some real concerns here. We should continue this discussion when we come back. Right now I have to run, but please, everyone, let’s start right at one-thirty. This is an issue of keen interest to many of you." Marilyn packed up her papers and dashed out. Juliet tried to catch her, but could not get by the crowd of students that filled the hall.

    Still in the classroom, Michelle took Martin’s arm. "Why are you DOING this?"

    He looked up at her and didn’t answer, then turned his head, looking straight into her chest. "You’re hurting me," he said, quietly and firmly. Sandy and Theresa came by. "What? Are you all going to threaten me?" he said more loudly. "Like Celia does?"

    "If Michelle told you something, you’re being really stupid, you know, for saying anything," Theresa said. "There’s nothing you can do about it now. It’s not going to make any difference."

    "Let me go!" he said more loudly. Michelle, shocked by his tone, released his arm and watched helplessly as he walked away angrily.

    "You’ve got to get him to shut up. He’s being a real jerk, Michelle," Sandy whispered.

    "What I am supposed to do? He has a point, you know. We had no right —

    "Ssshh. Not here," Theresa said, looking around the classroom, which was not yet empty. "Let’s go outside." Michelle went out the door, wanting to go to find Martin, but reluctantly went with her friends.

    From opposite corners of the room, both Mark and Celia had watched Martin and the three girls, Mark’s eyes rarely moving from Sandy’s muscular body. Now that she left, Mark looked over at Celia, but, noticing that she was watching him, he looked away and packed up his books. Celia walked up to him quickly and stood in front of him. "Wait," she said.


    "You know who I am? I’m Celia."

    "I know." He looked her up and down a bit nervously. "You’re, uh, the new bully around here?"

    "I can be," she said, standing closer to him, her breasts just beneath the level of his head. She leaned against the wall, stretching her arm to let her tight sleeve pull higher to show more of her biceps and watched his eyes dart toward them. "But I don’t have to be. Not all the time. You said you dream about girls getting muscular. Was that, like, a daydream or a nightmare?" She tensed her arm slowly.

    He looked away. "Um, well —

    "Come on, Mark. I think it’s cute. I think YOU’RE cute." She touched his chin, gently moving his head back towards her, keeping her biceps flexed. "I’m sure you’ve never felt a girl’s biceps. Certainly not muscles like these."

    "Well, no. Of course not. I mean no girl’s ever had biceps," he looked down at the bulging muscle just beneath his chin and swallowed, "like those."

    Celia took his hand and placed them on top of her biceps and pumped them a few times. "I guess not." Mark squeezed them as Celia tightened her muscles as much as she could. "They’re hard, aren’t they?"

    "Like a rock," he said admiringly. He looked up at her eyes.

    "Do you want to have lunch together?" she asked.

    "Uh, sure," he said.

    They walked out together, Mark moving somewhat stiffly. "You have a hard on!" she said in his ear. "Because of me?"

    He exhaled nervously. "Yeah, because of you," he replied. She moved closer, her swaying hips pushing against his waist as they walked. They sat next to each other at the end of the lunch room, no one paying any attention to either of them.

    "Do you think I’m really bad, for what I supposedly did to Harold and Jacob?" Celia asked.

    Mark laughed nervously. "Supposedly? Uh, pretty bad. I don’t think I’d want to be caught around with you if you did anything like that to me."

    "Oh I wouldn’t," she said quickly. "I was just playing around with them. I have sort of a history with them, and some other kids at this school. You don’t know about it, being new here. Nothing serious though."

    "Oh. Really. I guess I can see that. I’ve never been one place for that long. My Dad makes us move every couple of years."

    "That’s too bad."

    "In a way. But I like seeing different places. It’s just hard in the beginning. Having to figure out what’s going on. What people are like."

    "Yeah. But then you can also be a different person when you start someplace new. You’re not, like, stuck with a reputation."

    "That’s true. I never really thought about it that way. But what’s strange — now — is no one here knows me the way I looked before. I wasn’t always this, you know, scrawny. Really."

    "Oh, I’m sure," she said, looking at him closely. "It’s hard to imagine though, looking at you now." She touched his arm and squeezed his small, soft biceps.

    "Hey, easy!" he said as she continued amusing herself pushing his flesh around between her fingers. "So, uh, you seem like you really like having muscles, don’t you?"

    "Oh yeah. I love ’em. I want to make them as big and hard as I can." She laughed and spread her legs to touch his. "So, does that turn you on, thinking about that?"

    "Um, well, yes. A lot, if you really want to know." He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Do you think that’s weird?"

    "I don’t know. Maybe. Kind of a nice weird I think. Given what’s happened, it’s good you can enjoy it."

    "Yeah. Nice weird. That’s OK. I guess." He took a few bites of food and watched her biceps jump each time she lifted her fork to her mouth. "So, do you think at all about what happened to everyone? I mean, why it happened?"

    She reached over and took Mark’s hand, playing with his fingers. They were so small. His being so small made her feel in charge, like he was completely helpless in her hands. And anyway he seemed like he was completely mesmerized with her muscles. Even without using her strength, she could probably get him to do anything she wanted if she played it the right way. And she’d always have the strength to use if she wanted to. "I read some stuff on the ‘net on some site called Femme Volcana. Really mystical and strange. I don’t know if I believe it. I guess I don’t. The site was getting all sorts of traffic on Saturday. But now it’s gone. I don’t know what happened to it. Maybe something mystical."

    "You think? You have to give me her web address. Or I could google it. Maybe she just exceeded her bandwidth. I’ve been looking at a lot of sites too. There’s, like, an internet site where guys talk about this kind of stuff all the time. Some was about real muscle girls and some of it just imaginary, I mean, you know, fantasies and things. But now that this is happening they’ve all gone completely crazy, speculating about magic and aliens and things being the cause of it. It’s almost impossible to keep up with all of it there’s so many posts."

    "I bet. But they’re all guessing, right? I mean, you haven’t read anything that really makes sense, have you?"

    "No. It’s really the same stuff these guys always talk about. I’ve, uh, looked at these sites before."

    "It would be nice to know how it happened, for real, wouldn’t it." Mark nodded. "Wasn’t that really weird in class? Right at the end, with Martin and Michelle? Like they knew something."

    "Uh huh. I noticed that too. But it would be too strange. Who are they? Why should they know anything?"

    "I don’t know. But I know when people are acting like they have something to hide. Michelle’s not good at hiding anything. She’s not very smart you know."

    "I got that feeling."

    "And Martin’s really pissed about something. I bet if you talked to him, you could find out what he knows."

    "Why would he tell me anything? He doesn’t know me."

    "Oh, he would. He doesn’t have any real friends, except for Michelle, and he’s mad at her. So if you talked to him and you were smart about it, you could probably find out something. But you’d have to do it soon, before they made up."

    "That sounds kind of sneaky."

    "No it’s not. It’s — shit!"

    Mel and Beth and four other girls had walked up to Celia and Mark and now surrounded them. "Hey, Seal, I thought you were going to be one of us, now. We all eat together every day, and if you’re in, then you eat with us too. This is Sheree, Jill, Billie and Bonnie. They’re all in. So who’s this little bozo? Your boyfriend?"

    Mark looked up at the hulking girls and started to get up. "Um, if I’m interrupting something —

    Mel pushed him back down. "I wasn’t talking to you, shrimp. Seal, you can do MUCH better than this guy. Who is he anyway? I never seen him before."

    This was just what Celia didn’t want. "His name’s Mark. Listen, about that thing. I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s not such a great idea."

    "What?! After I told everybody? You said you wanted to be one of us."

    "No I didn’t. I said —

    "I DON’T like being messed around. Listen. That exercise thing you showed us really worked, and we’re gonna to do it. We’ll be unstoppable, untouchable. So, just because I’m nice, I’m gonna to give you another chance. But if you don’t do what you said — well, you just see. And Mark here will see too." Mel flexed her biceps. "Pretty good, huh? Just you wait to see how big I’M gonna get, sister. Then you’re gonna wish you were one of us. Come on, girls. Let’s let Seal here discuss it with her boyfriend."

    One of the girls reached under Mark’s bottom and pinched him and they all left, laughing.

    "Fuck! What’s THAT about, Celia?" Mark said, frightened. He moved a few inches away.

    "It’s bullshit. Damnit! Celia pounded the table. "I said something stupid to those girls. We were all in the Principal’s office, ok? I was a little … scared of them, ok? We were just talking, I mean — Shit! Listen, you have to help me."

    "Help you? What can I do? The smallest of those five could take me easily, and who knows what they’d be like if they keep working out —

    Celia put her hand on Mark’s arm to stop him. "I’m not asking you to fight them. If Martin knows what’s going on, then maybe we can use that somehow. THAT’S how you can help."

    "I don’t … oh, right. I get it. You’re saying that if he really does know something about how this all happened, or Michelle does — and that’s only like a trillion to one — you think you can somehow get control of it and use whatever kind of magic force to protect yourself?" Mark sighed. "These things never work out right, you know."

    "What do you mean ‘never work out’? Like you have some kind of personal experience? Like you’ve tried it before? Like this kind of thing has ever happened before?"

    "No. Of course not. I mean … in stories. Movies. You know. Tampering with forces too powerful to control."

    "Mark! Come on! What difference does THAT make? This isn’t a story or some kind of fantasy. This is real. Besides, you want to wait around to see what that gang does to us? To you? What ELSE are you going to do to protect yourself?"

    "This is ridiculous. You think they’re really going to beat me up, just ’cause I’m having lunch with you?"

    "How should I know? You heard her." Celia shrugged. "Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t. I don’t know." Celia moved closer to Mark. "Listen, you can talk to Martin, or not talk to Martin. I just thought from what you were saying before that you might be curious. You might find something out that we can use. I mean, we think the same way about this, don’t we? I want to be strong, and you … you want me to be strong. Either way we win, right?" She looked into his eyes and he looked back, breathing hard. She HAD him. She KNEW it. "Anyway, come over my house after school. There won’t be any new homework today. You can watch me work out. And we can hang out together. You know." Mark looked at her, his eyes slipping over to her biceps, her chest and then back up to her face. "Don’t you want to?" she asked more sweetly. She touched his cheek with her biceps and then flexed them gently. "You know you do," she said more quietly. "I mean, am I your dream girl or what?"

    "You’re not bad," Mark replied, trying not to smile. "Look. Isn’t that Martin getting up from lunch? Maybe, uh, maybe I can have a little chat with him. Before class." He stood up.

    "Sure. See you later," Celia said with a smile.


    * rubs eyes not believing that he’s finally reading another chapter of "Pendant Changes" *

    Great going Mark. I have a feeling things will really start to heat up from now on. .

    I imagine Celia will learn about the pendant and want to be the all powerful bully. I was actualling hoping the pendant would be left alone. I just think it’s too much fun reading about the changes that have gone through, to want to see it change over and over again. But that’s just me. You have to follow your inspiration off course.

    Again, great work and I’m greatly looking forward to reading the rest!


    "What will be more important, the reactions she gets or the actions she takes?"

    hey mark thats really good


    An excellent addition to your fantastic story! I can’t wait for the next chapter


    The FMG fan reaction as relayed by Mark’s discussion with Celia is freaking hilarious.

    It’s cool for our particular bent to get a highlight within the reality of the story.

    Thanks Marknew742 for the story so far. I like how the authority figures actually give a damn about their young charges and are at least trying to make them feel better while attempting, not very well that is, to stay in control. 8)


    I love this story.. 😛

    After weeks of logging on here every day waiting for the next chapter, I must say it’s great to have one here finally..

    Now I’m hoping that Martin gets overrun by the bus so he don’t spill the beans, *grr* *evil toughts*, needless to say I don’t have much faith in him beeing able to keep the secret. :-/


    I thought the girls overloaded the pendant by wishing for pizzas.

    Anyway, I appreciate the clever etymological wordplay of the title. The story pertains to the issues that are corollaries of sexual dimorphism. 😆

    Mark Newman

    You have to follow your inspiration off course.

    Thanks. I hope I won’t take things too far off course. 😉

    I thought the girls overloaded the pendant by wishing for pizzas.

    Naaah, that was just the warm-up. It was Theresa’s wish that women were "just naturally bigger and stronger than guys" that wore it out until Tuesday night.

    I was actually hoping the pendant would be left alone. I just think it’s too much fun reading about the changes that have gone through, to want to see it change over and over again.

    I agree. It would be tiresome if things keep changing. I don’t intend to make this story just like alt.univ. The focus is on the people, not the pendant. But then the characters’ attitude toward the changes and, for those who know, toward the pendant is part of their reaction to what’s happening to them. I’ve tried to keep the right balance in the next parts and I’m sure you’ll let me know if I don’t succeed.

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