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Gary Couzens is a British writer whose work has been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Interzone, The Third Alternative, Peeping Tom, Psychotrope and Urges, and in the anthology Bizarre Sex and Other Crimes of Passion (Richard Kasak Books). This story previously appeared in Substance #4.

Dark Planet is designed and edited by Lucy A. Snyder. If you spot any errors, or if you have any comments, please contact her at lusnyde@indiana.edu.

All materials copyright 1996-1997 by their respective creators. No stories, articles, poems or images from this webzine may be posted or published without the written consent of their creator(s).


by Gary Couzens

(Go back to Part Four)

Part Five

     Penny sits in the back as Richard drives to the hospital.
     The voice seems so convincing, so reasonable. It (he) even has a name: Peter. So logical and yet so absurd. She thinks: My name is Penelope Jane Walsh. Less formally (more usually), Penny Walsh. I am female, single, twenty-five years old. I do not have a male alter ego.
     And yet she does. According to Peter, if nature's dice had landed another way, and she were a man, she would be him.
     And Peter wants to be her.
     - Tell me, she says to him. Why do you want to be a woman?
     - I don't know. I always have. Ever since I was little, I've had this sense I was in the wrong body. When I was at school, I had to prevent myself from going into the girls' toilets. I did once, and everyone laughed at me.
     - I'm sorry for you. But I still think you're exaggerating. I don't think I'm very feminine. I only wear a skirt because I have to for work. Outside work, I slop around in leggings or jeans. I don't wear makeup. I've got one posh dress I never wear, except to weddings.
     - It's all very well for you to say. That's your choice. You have that choice: you're a woman.
     - I know I am. I wouldn't want it any other way.
     - You can't imagine it any other way.
     - Well, no. I wouldn't want to be a man. That's the last thing I'd want.
     - Then how do you think I fucking well feel? I can imagine it, but I can't fucking have it!

     She can feel tears prickling his eyes, a band about his throat. She feels his iron self-control. If Michelle and Richard weren't in the front seat, he'd be crying. Or maybe he wouldn't be.
     - Then why don't you do something about it? she says. It's no good wallowing in self-pity.
     - What do you mean?
     - You can get a sex change.
     - You can't just "get a sex change"! Do you know what's involved in that?
     - Well, no. I can't say I do.
     - You've got to get a psychiatrist to certify you're genuinely transsexual. If he doesn't believe you, you can't get the operation. You've got to live as your chosen gender for two years. I'll have to have electrolysis treatment to get rid of my facial hair. I've have to take hormones. And then, if I'm lucky, they'll let me have the operation. That costs a lot of money if you get it done privately. Do you know what they do there?
     - No doubt you're going to tell me.
     - They cut your penis off. They fold the scrotal tissue into a hole they make between your legs: that's your vagina. The glans becomes the clitoris. They restructure the urethra. Only an expert can tell the difference between that and the real thing.
     - Stop it! You're making me sick!
     She breaks contact. It's her own fault; she asked him for details and she got details.
     She's still feeling queasy when they reach the hospital.

     I lay in bed that evening talking to Penny. From time to time she complained I was keeping her awake: I could feel her weariness.
     - I'll let you go to sleep if you'll let me do one thing, I said.
     - What?
     - Let me get into your head. Just for a minute.
     - What do you mean?
     - Let me be you. Come on, only a minute.
     - Isn't that dangerous?
     - We won't know until we try! Come on, Penny, please.
     - You sure you can get back into your body?
     - Yes! Look, I can feel what you feel, hear what you hear, see what you see. But it's only little bits. I want to go all the way.
     - That sounds like a chat-up line.
I could hear her chuckle.
     - But you will?
     - Oh all right. But just for a minute. I don't want you stuck in my head.
     - Thanks, Penny. You don't realise what this means to me.
     - Oh, cut the sycophantic bullshit. Get on with it.

     And I pushed.
     There was no other word for it: just an extra mental effort, a flexing of a new muscle.
     For a moment I thought it hadn't worked. I was still gazing up at the same ceiling.
     "It hasn't worked," I said out loud.
     And then I froze. I began to tremble. My voice was not the same. It was quite deep, but lacked the gravel undertow of a male voice.
     I looked down at myself. It wasn't easy to move my head; it was as if my neck muscles were resisting me.
     I was wearing a nightdress. It was loose on me, and I could see the shadowy gully of my cleavage. I slid my finger up the side of the breast, touched the areola and the nipple.
     Then Penny's voice inside my head:
     - Your minute's up, matey. I didn't say you could have a feel as well. Go on, back to your own body.
     I broke contact. I was in my own body again. Overweight. Male. But for a minute or so, I had been a woman. The thrill of that minute had given me an erection. I climbed out of bed and locked myself in the bathroom and masturbated.
     I knew that that minute would tantalise me, maybe for the rest of my life. If I went ahead with a sex-change, I would look the part: breasts, smooth soft skin, broader hips, a vagina. I could have sex with men who could bring me to a woman's orgasm. But I wouldn't have that sense of rightness, that sense of womanliness that I'd experienced just then, just for a moment.

Go On To Part Six