This was kinda inspired by a few things. Travel experiences, stuff I've sorta read and my desire to write a story in the area of culture. Thanks to Jennifer for letting me use her Medallion. I borrowed it for a long while but this could have happened any old time. As usual, if you have any comment I can be reached at my usual address, email@example.com. Because I'm an egotistical schlapper head I do appreciate feedback. Well enjoy.
Going Native. By Kismet.
"How much further does the guide say it is?" I asked Andy.
Andy spoke to our guide Batu in halting Thai, nodding at Batu's reply then turning to me. "Over the next hill. Not much further."
"Hill. He calls these things hills? They're more like small mountains!" I muttered as my feet pounded into the hard packed mud of the trail. Because the hills were so steep, going down was more jarring on the body than going up, especially in the cheap sandals I wore.
Batu smiled, his Asian face warming and dark eyes shining. The short, lean man understood what I was saying, I was sure of it.
We were trekking in the remote hills of Northern Thailand. At least I thought we were. We were fairly close to the Golden Triangle and could have wondered into Burma or Laos for all I knew. I shouldered my pack and concentrated upon placing one foot in front of the other on the steep meandering path.
I'd met Andy in a hostel in Chang Mai, a major population centre in Thailand. I was a New Zealand backpacker travelling by myself on my annual leave. So far I'd found the South Asian country to be interesting but very tourist orientated. Towering above most of the populace at six foot tall and doubly obvious with my pale freckled skin and sandy hair, I felt out of place, a real outsider.
Andy was a Canadian from Calgary of similar stature but with dark hair and sharp eyes. He'd spent a lot of time in Thailand and knew the language and haunts fairly well. We'd got talking, drinking and eating in a relaxed manner that only seems to occur when you're travelling overseas.
Somewhere along the way I'd mentioned that I wanted to do the usual tourist trip into the hills. Visit the springs, check out the hill tribe villages, ride an elephant and take a bamboo raft down the river. Stock standard fair.
Andy had suggested that I go further north and visit the more remote and least visited villages. He said he knew of a pristine and untouched village where I would be accepted as though I were a native. He also mentioned he was good friends with one of the best guides in the area. I leapt at the idea.
Before sunrise the next day Andy, myself and our expert guide Batu had jumped onto a crowded bus and headed north. For two hours I cringed at the mad driving antics of the Thai bus driver. There's nothing better then overtaking on blind corners or making three lanes out of a two lane road. I kid you not. The real lanes were occupied by logging trucks or swerving vans and we were in an imaginary lane somewhere in the middle. Eventually I had to force myself not to watch the road or else I would have gone mad.
Even without watching the road there was an almost constant source of amusement. Hawkers tried to sell me food and Asian people pushed and shoved into me as the bus stopped at odd moments. Eventually we came to a town I didn't know and the trip ended.
Without pause we climbed into the back of a ute and drove as far as we could into the hills for almost half the day. This was fairly sedate in comparison to the bus trip and I almost enjoyed it except for the lack of suspension, the pothole riddled dirt track and the hard metal seat. The ute dropped us off and headed back the way it had come. I was happy to see it go as was my tender backside.
We made our way down to the river. Batu made a makeshift raft with the immense bamboo shoots on the bank while Andy and I ate lunch. We took a hairy ride down the river on the small bamboo raft, through the steep gorges and wild rapids until Batu came to an almost invisible path. We left the raft and started hiking.
We were still hiking and it was past dusk. It was also starting to get cold.
"Not much further Mike," Andy said.
Almost an hour later we were there. It was pitch dark and I could barely see a thing. Batu led us into the village, past pigs, scabby dogs and feral chickens that I heard more than saw. We ended up outside the headman's hut. It was built on stilts due to the sloping nature of the topography. I assumed that flat land was at a premium so that was why they built on such steep slopes. Inside was a fire with people huddled around it.
A man stood to greet us as we entered. His face was weathered but he was healthy and spry, probably thirty or forty years old. What struck me was his height. He was only slightly above five foot and the woman in the room were even shorter. Since being in Thailand I'd found Asian people to be generally shorter than Caucasians. The hill tribe people were positively diminutive.
The tribesman spoke to Andy and Batu for a little while, then looked at me and smiled, nodding towards me. I nodded back, not knowing how to communicate with the man. The short man spoke to one of the three young woman and immediately they started to dish up food for their visitors, working in complete silence.
We all took a seat on the ground, Andy, Batu and the tribesman talking whilst I watched the woman work. They were all very attractive with long dark hair, dark eyes and lissom figures. They were also very short, a little under five foot tall and appeared young, between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. I noticed that one of them appeared to be pregnant. Obviously the girls married very young in this culture.
Seeing me gaze at her rounded stomach the woman blushed and paused, placing a hand on her rounded belly. There was a quick rebuke from the tribesman and the pregnant woman started to work again.
After the meal was served up, the woman filed from the room into what was obviously their bed room. Andy, Batu and I started to eat, Batu and the tribesman talking, Andy translating.
"Batu is Nugai's nephew," I nodded seeing the family resemblance now. "Nugai is the tribe headsman. He has three wives. He asks how many wives you have."
"None, not even a girlfriend at the moment. Tell him he is a very lucky man to have three beautiful wives."
Andy did, then laughed at Nugai's response. "He says that he will soon have a fourth wife as beautiful as the other three."
"Even better," I said, eating away. The conversation went on like this for the rest of the meal, Nugai very interested in my life and past, bits and pieces of the tribes culture coming up with my questions. Nugai's tribe practiced polygamy and there was a hierarchy to the wives status. The tribe was self contained and had an adequate number of rice paddies on the hills. Due to their isolation they rarely if ever saw foreigners. It was probably four days trekking through the steep hills back to civilisation.
I shivered a little at the chill air. Even with the warmth of the fire it was a little cold. The Headsman grinned and passed me a hand made blanket. I took it gratefully and wrapped it around my shoulders. "Thankyou," I said.
Andy smiled and reached into his pocket, pulling out a cheap, gaudy medallion. "Take this. As an honoured guest you should wear it."
I frowned as I accepted it. It didn't look like hill tribe jewellery. I shrugged and put it around my neck, resting it on the roughly woven blanket. When in Rome...
It was the end of the meal. Nugai pulled out a pipe and a very large lump of what must have been opium. There was a lot of it. Too much. Probably four kilos worth.
"Um, Andy. What is that?" I asked, hoping I was mistaken about the drugs.
Andy produced a pair of rubber gloves as he looked at me. "Opium," he turned back to Nugai and chatted briefly. Nugai passed the large amount of opium across. Andy smiled as he slipped the gloves on.
"What's going on?" I asked in a concerned voice.
"I'm just finishing up my business here. Don't worry Mike. You're not going to be involved in drug smuggling. Nugai here has a large poppy field. I've just made a trade with him," Andy said.
"Not with me around you're not! I'm not getting killed over that shit," I said angrily, my voice rising in pitch. My skin felt a little strange. I looked down to see it darkening slightly. "Hey what's going on? What's happening?" My voice was rising higher. I could feel my scalp itch and brought a hand up to it. My hand was noticeably smaller and callused. I gripped a long strand of dark hair.
Batu said something to Nugai and they both laughed. They lit up the pipe which they shared, watching me intently at the same time. Sensing that there was something terribly wrong I stood, only to discover that my shoes were much too big and my cloth pants were slack around my waist. Taking a few steps, I tripped, my thin pants and underwear dropped around my ankles.
I reached down to pull them up in confusion. I saw something that couldn't be there. Between my legs was a woman's sex. I pulled my pants up quickly and backed into the wall. Andy stood and walked over to me. He towered above me!
"Sit down Mike. Calm down. Worrying won't get you anywhere," he said, taking the medallion from my neck and putting it back in his pocket.
I looked down at myself. A female body. I was a short hill tribe woman. I looked back at Andy. He was a giant. Batu had stood up, as had Nugai. They were both taller than me.
"This can't be happening," I said, my voice now unmistakably female.
"You wanted to be treated like a native Mike. Looks to me like you've gone native," Andy said. He reached towards my waist and grabbed my money belt, unclasping it. It held my passport. My travellers cheques. My plane ticket. My Visa card.
"What are you doing with those?" I asked. "I have a life you know. People will come looking for me."
"No they won't. You're not going to go missing. Batu here is going to take your identity. He'll smuggle the drugs out of the country and as a reward he'll get to live your life. I get the drugs. Nugai here gets a fourth wife. You get a new life," Andy said.
"You bastard," I said angrily.
Andy grabbed my cheek and squeezed it patronisingly. "You are the cutest little hill tribe girl when you're angry. Nugai chose well this time. You don't look a day over sixteen. And you've got great tits," Andy said grabbing a handful of my new cleavage through my too big T-shirt. They did feel large. "Most Asian girls have small breasts but yours are just right. I hope they don't sag. My business here is done. I guess we'll let you get aquatinted with your new husband. Coming Batu?"
"Coming," Batu said in good English. They both left, the cold wind flowing in as the door opened and closed. I stood there looking at my body until Nugai coughed. I drew my eyes away from the impossible vision before me.
"Sex," he said with a thick accent.
I shook my head.
"Sex," Nugai said again.
"Go to hell," I said bitterly.
Nugai smiled and started to walk towards me. I felt a moment of worry. Before this man had seemed small. Now I was smaller than him. Nugai gripped me and pulled me from where I stood. 'Oh god, here we go,' I thought.
Nugai guided me roughly to the door and opened it, pushing me outside. "No sex. No hut," he said, closing the door.
It was dark outside and there was a chilly breeze. The air was cold. I felt my skin goosebump straight away and my nipples harden. I looked around. There were other huts. Maybe I could try those. Hugging my arms around myself, I walked to the nearest one, tripping over in my shoes and pants which hung loosely upon my small female frame. My teethe started chattering as I knocked and I was very conscious of the new weight of my breasts on my chest.
There was no answer so I tried the door. It was bolted. I tried the next hut. The same. God I was cold! A little desperate now, I wandered from one hut to the next. All were barred. I knew there were people there so I begged. No one answered my pleading so I was forced to move on. The cold air bit into my small frame and I shivered uncontrollably.
Sensing that I would have no luck with the huts, I wandered around until I found the pig pen. By this stage I was positively freezing my new tits off. My day clothes had been light, thin cotton pants and a T-shirt. I was a lot smaller with very little body fat and the temperature was dropping, the wind picking up. The pigs might offer some warmth.
Climbing through the fence I approached them. I tried to nestle amongst them but they squealed and awoke, snorting angrily. The large sow chased me and I barely made it out before she got me. Shivering I examined my options. I had little clothes and only one place to stay. If I stayed there I was going to have to have sex as a woman. The small body I wore was most definitely female and the mere thought of sex as a woman terrified and sickened me.
I was torn. This was obviously a power game and Nugai was asserting his dominance over me. If I went back now I'd be admitting defeat. Nugai would have won his first victory. On the other hand if I stayed out in the cold I would surely die. Never one to die for my ideals, I chose prostitution.
I slowly walked back to the headman's hut and pushed the door open. There was a matt in the middle of the room next to the fire. On it sat Nugai, staring into the fire, the opium pipe in his hands. He'd been smoking it. The smell hung thick in the air. Beside the man was a pile of blankets.
I padded into the room, grabbed the pipe and sat down across from the fire. I thought about using the opium, about the consequences of inhaling deeply on the pipe. The opium might make things easier. Maybe I'd even forget. I shook my head. I was adventurous and would try anything once, but I would never use drugs as a crutch. I was not going to start now. I had to take the moral high ground somehow. Especially considering what I was about to do.
Nugai took the pipe from me and placed it beside the matt then patted it, waiting for me. I walked over beside him and looked into his eyes. I closed my eyes. I took of my top and shrugged off my pants. I lay down, naked and exposed.
He ran his hands over my body, playing with my breasts and nipples. He spread my legs and entered me. I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling. It was thatched and woven together. The fire light played across it. I concentrated on the details above me.
It was unpleasant. What could possibly have been something wonderful and new was somehow dirty and wrong. I had no volition. I was not an equal. I was just some warm place for this Asian man to get his rocks off. His hands were not gentle. It was base. It was hardly even sex.
Afterwards Nugai stood and pointed me towards the room where his other wives were. I shook my head in a daze and went in, naked. "No work. No food," he said as he closed the door behind me. He slept in the main room, his wives in the second room. I sighed in relief.
My eyes adjusted to the darkness. I saw the three other woman. There was also a baby girl held by one of them. I nodded to them, not expecting to be able to talk to them.
The silence was heavy until one of the girls spoke. "I suppose I should welcome you to the family. My name is Billie. This is Franc and Dale. The baby girl is Peta. She tried to escape and was punished," Billie said with a thick American accent. She came forward with a heavy hand made robe which she wrapped around me. She was taller then me.
"You all were once men?" I asked.
"Yes, Andy fooled all of us. Are you all right? It can be hard the first time but you do get used to it," Franc said. She had a French accent and appeared to be about eighteen. The baby girl played with Franc's long dark hair, watching me with large innocent eyes.
"I think I'd rather be sleeping with that pig than have a bun in the oven," Dale said. She was the pregnant woman who I'd stared at before and her accent was British.
"How long have you been here for?" I asked.
"Peta arrived first. She's been here for almost a year," Billie said. "She was the first wife until she tried to escape about seven months ago. She got caught and was changed into a baby girl when Andy came back. The Medallion is Andy's. Reversing her age made Swiss cheese of her mind. That made me the new first wife. I've been here for eight months and Dale, the second wife, has been here for six months. She got pregnant early on. Franc is the third wife and she has been here for four months and we think she's pregnant too. There's no doctors out here to check. It's hard to keep track of time and there are no papers or radio. We have to work hard so time goes very quick after a while."
"I can get pregnant?"
"Yes. You have to be careful," Franc said.
I wandered over to the sleeping matt and sat down. The others talked to me for some time, but it was obvious they were very tired and I was in shock.
* * *
I wandered down to the creek and sat down heavily. Franc was washing her body with no modesty. There was really no need for it. The woman and men of the tribe wore clothes only for protection from the elements. They didn't care if a woman was clothed or not. They did have a sense of propriety but it was different to mine.
I was so drained I didn't care either as I grabbed the bucket and started to wash down my body. I paid particular attention to it's new curves. The breasts, the small lean stomach, the curved flair of my wide hips.
Up at the crack of dawn, I'd been out in the rice patties, pushing mud around and flattening out new areas. Then I'd come back and been given the water buckets. I had to cart water up the hill to each hut. The buckets were big, the hills were steep and the village was a long way from the creek. I was small but surprisingly strong having obviously inherited the hill girls strength. I had also inherited her stamina thank god.
Whilst carting the water with the buckets suspended by leather from my forehead I had picked up a smattering of words from the locals. After that I'd had to do washing in the creek using archaic washing boards. Without soap. I'd also cleaned the pig sty and I got a crash course in the crude hill tribe cloth making technique. We were making tourist knick knacks.
"God, I'm tired," I complained.
"You'll get used to it. The hill tribe is not like western society. Woman do all the hard work. The married men mostly just sit around and smoke opium. The more wives a man has, the easier his life becomes. Bachelors have it hard though. A lot of the young men go to the cities to work if they can't find wives. They save in the hopes they can buy a wife. Some of the girls are sold to other tribes or sent to work in brothels to support their parents and families. It's pretty harsh for females and for most of the guys."
"You don't think they'll send us down there do you? To brothels?" I asked. I could escape in a city.
"You wouldn't want too be sent there. They generally get the girls addicted to opium before they send them down. That way they can control you. Stay away from that stuff. It's too easy to get your hands on it and way too easy to get addicted to it. And if you get pregnant it might mess up your kid."
I nodded mutely. Thoughts of pregnancy and life forever in this place rolled through my mind. These people were nothing but ignorant savages. They were too stupid and stuck in their ways to accept the modern world or it's thinking. I felt like I'd stepped back in time to the dark ages. My hopes of getting home and getting my body back were a blur. I was too tired to think them through. I was physically and emotionally spent.
The sun was setting and it was starting to get cold. I looked down at my chest. The dark pigmentation of my skin, my small frame and my physical appearance marked me as a native. The large breasts and nipples, what was between my legs and my newly rounded hips marked me as a woman. I shook my head and rinsed my body off one more time.
Following Franc I went back to the hut and made dinner with the other wives. Andy and a man that looked just like me turned up for dinner. After a few brief words with the Headman I realised who the man was. Batu was wearing my body!
I was angry. I felt like throwing myself at the man but it was pointless. I was under five foot and he was a giant. I ate my food, not looking at them. They sniggered and laughed. At me probably.
"How are you finding it Mike. Nugai said you were very sweet. He calls you Mikh. Cute name," Andy baited.
My face coloured and I bit back an angry retort.
"He said that I could sleep with you tonight but I think I'll pass. There's all kinds of nasty virus' in these tribes," Andy smiled. I looked up at him. Somehow I would get even. "So what was it like? Spreading your legs and loosing your maidenhood? I bet you loved it. You would have squealed and begged for more."
I looked back at my food and ate, the food tasting like ash in my mouth. I wished he knew what it was like.
The cruel remarks continued until we finished the meal. The air was tense with uneasiness as Franc, Dale and Billie watched the men talk. Fortunately Andy and Batu left after a discussion with Nugai. By the way they said their farewells I could tell that Andy and Batu were heading back early tomorrow. I watched Batu leave with my body. I wondered if I would ever see it again.
After dinner Nugai ushered the other woman into their sleeping quarters. He made me undress and took me again. I was too tired to even pay attention. It was all rough groping and panting. It was nothing. Nugai was less than nothing.
As I stepped back into the room, Billie came and led me to the bed. She held me in her arms, wrapped a blanket over us both and talked about how we were going to escape. She told me how it didn't matter. Nothing mattered accept us. She told me that she'd be there for me. I pressed my face into her breast and held her as she smoothed my ear and made soft soothing noises. I felt helpless. Small. But in her arms I felt safe.
* * *
A week passed and it felt like an eternity. I worked myself ragged. The harder I worked, the less I had to think, the less I noticed the attentions of Nugai and the easier sleep took me. I was on auto pilot. I picked up more of the native tongue without even thinking about it. The villages just thought I was from another tribe that didn't speak the same language as them as there were hundreds of isolated villages, each with its own dialect.
Another week went by and the other wives were clearly worried about me. I walked around in a daze. I ate less. I was loosing weight, weight I didn't have.
"You have to eat more," Franc said to me after I pushed my half eaten bowl of rice and vegetables away. She eyed me with serious concern.
"I just can't," I said. "I'm not hungry. But I am tired." I stood and made my way to the woven matt that we slept on.
"He's won if you give up. Don't let him break your spirit," Billie said.
I nodded and turned away from them, preparing my bed.
"There's one of the hill tribes festivals tomorrow. You're not going to work. We won't even let you help prepare food. You're going to go out have a good time," Billie commented.
"You can't make me," I muttered.
"As the first wife I can. You have to do what I tell you to do," she said. Billie was all bluff but I was so cowed that I accepted what she said at face value.
The next day was a hot and humid one but from the beginning there was a strange excitement in the air. Even in my benumbed and moribund state I could sense it.
Men and woman started arriving from the surrounding villages, the numbers of people slowly swelling. There were new faces. The woman were out in their best and brightest clothes, bedecked in the silver and beads of their respective tribes. The men brought things to trade. Animals, building materials, fertility charms, herbs, spices, cured meats. The list was endless. They also brought their children to arrange marriages.
One of Nugai's pigs was slaughtered and prepared for cooking. Wooden plates bedecked with heaps of hill tribe food were provided by our village and more were brought in by the visitors. The children ran around, naked and carefree, their menial chores forgotten for the day as they made new friends and acquaintances. There were a number of cock fights and heated arguing and betting prevailed.
I found it very odd. People were smiling, dancing, singing, playing music and larking about. They were dirt poor. They had nothing and worked themselves to the bone every day but they were happy. The woman who toiled with me in the fields laughed and joked with complete strangers, passing around the roughest rice alcohol in the world.
"Take a drink Mikh," one of them suggested.
I shook my head. They couldn't say Mike so they'd started calling me Mikh just as Nugai had. It was close enough and coming from them I didn't mind it.
"Go on, I made it myself. It's good stuff," the older woman said.
I shrugged and accepted the gourd. Taking a deep drink I grimaced and they laughed good naturedly as I coughed and sputtered. "Very good," I gasped.
They continued talking after that. I understood some of what they were saying.
"Do you know how small my husbands is?" one woman asked.
"Mine's tiny. His little plough is barely enough to till my soil," another piped in. At first I thought they were talking farming.
"You need young virile men," a woman said. "I have a lover who is only eighteen summers old. He is wonderful," the woman crowed with laughter. It was all so absurd. Some of these woman were in their fifties and they were talking about their young partners who were my age.
I actually laughed out loud, surprising all the woman, myself most of all. "Nugai is so small I don't even feel him!" I said. There were peals of laughter, relaxed and merry.
Up until now I had been dour and unresponsive but seeing these people celebrating like this and being part of it started to bring me out of my slump. I started to relax, breathing in the atmosphere. I gossiped away for hours with these woman, filling in the blanks in my vocabulary with miming and hand signals, passing around the gourd, the rice wine becoming smoother and smoother as the day went by.
Just as the sun started to set, tinting the sky a surreal red, a number of villagers pulled out incomprehensible musical instruments and started playing. A bonfire was lit and the woman started dancing with any man that asked. Social rank seemed to be forgotten.
My head bobbed to the discordant Asian music and I started to clap along. A young man appeared before me, smiling. His name was Jai. I'd seen him before and I was about to talk to him, tell him I didn't want to dance when he grabbed me by the hands and pulled me to my feet. I was suddenly in the throng of dancing, gyrating bodies.
It was unlike any dancing I'd ever done before. Wild and untamed, unfettered by any preconceptions. Jai pushed his body into mine, grinning and laughing, waving his hands above his head childishly. I mimicked him laughing all the time.
It was exhilarating. I felt so alive. I didn't care about my body. I didn't care about where I was. I was lost to the moment amongst people who felt the same as me, people that I could relate too. As a new tune started up, Jai dragged me aside and into a hut. He kissed me and I responded, kissing back. In an instant he had my shift off and was kissing my nipples and holding my breasts. I didn't even think about what we did next. He was a man. I was a woman.
We lay down on the straw matt in the middle of the hut and lost ourselves in each others bodies. It was fun. It was exhilarating. It was poignant. I wanted to do it. He explored every nook and cranny of my shapely female body, gently caressing, slowly and tenderly. He responded to me and I did my best to respond to him. It was wonderful.
When we were done we lay there in a sweaty embrace, the noise of the festivities outside filtering through the walls. "Thankyou," I said simply in my new language.
"Thankyou," Jai replied, an impish grin on his face.
* * *
Jai became my salvation. Every chance I had I spent time with him. The moments were brief but they sustained me. He was so simple but also had so much depth.
I had looked down at these hill tribe people. I'd thought them ignorant and backward. Jai showed me how narrow minded I had been by providing me with much needed support and giving me insights into the world around me. He taught me about the village and how it worked, the social hierarchy and how to act and what to say. He understood nature, about the vegetation and animals and how to use this knowledge in day to day matters. Jai could also make incredible things from bamboo and wood using simple tools. Most of all he was great in bed and taught me all about my new body.
In a lot of ways the small close knit community of the tribe was superior to the distant rat race back home. After the party I was part of the village, part of the female social regime. The woman of the village had seen me in another light and understood my position as the headman's wife better. I think they understood how much I hated him.
The woman seemed to understand why I'd been so distant and unapproachable and forgave me for it. People now talked to me and I got to know them better. The woman often sought out my advice and opinion on matters. Sometimes I would have the answer. If I didn't I'd ask one of the wives or Jai. Matters trivial and serious issues were brought to my attention. They ranged from the health of livestock and how to improve it to close intimate details of family life or sex that I would never have dared discuss with anyone previously.
I soon discovered that as the least senior wife I was the most approachable due to the villages hierarchical nature. I suspected that this may also have been partly due to Billie, Franc and Dale wording up the village woman but I didn't care. I felt at home and accepted.
* * *
After my second month I realised I hadn't menstruated. This terrified me as I didn't have the least idea what I would do if I was with child. I asked Franc and she laughed. "So you found yourself a man did you?" she asked.
I frowned. "Pardon?"
"Nugai is sterile as a mule. Myself and Dale have both slept with other men. That's how we became pregnant. You must be the same. That sly little Jai got you did he?"
I looked back with an innocent expression.
"I thought so. He's been watching you since you arrived but you were so busy being miserable that you didn't even notice. Nugai probably knows..."
I inhaled a breath of fear.
"Don't worry. Nugai knows about all of our indiscretions. As long as it isn't open he can save face. He knows he is sterile but if his wives keep getting pregnant it can mean only one thing right. Be careful though. If you and Jai are public he'll have to act. Besides, now he can try and sell you."
"Yes. Yo Jai."
"I'm not property!" I said. The moment I said it I knew it to be wrong. I was property. In this hill tribe woman belonged to men. It was that simple.
Franc smiled. "You'll probably fetch quite a price. At least ten chickens, a pig or two, a lot of rice, a cow maybe and whatever else Nugai can squeeze out of Jai. You're probably the prettiest wife amongst the four of us. Those large breasts will fetch quite a price and you are the youngest."
I tried to get my mind around this. Human life was so cheap. Then again these were prized possessions and things not to be treated lightly. There were only a few pigs and bisons in the village and they bestowed the prestige of a BMW or Rolls Royce to their owner. It irked me that my beauty would bump up the price though.
"My man is still saving. I hope he can buy me before my child is born. I don't want to buy the baby off Nugai." Franc said.
"You'd have to buy your own child?" I asked in shock. I had never encountered this side of the village culture before and it scared me.
Franc nodded her face taking on a look of acceptance. "If it comes to that."
* * *
"Jai?" I asked. We were lying naked together in the sun, basking in a clearing at the top of a hill that overlooked the village. We'd just had sex and were enfolded in each others arms, taking in the beautiful view.
"What Mikh?" he asked playing with my long dark hair. We spoke the native tongue now. I had a basic grasp of the tonal language and I was improving every day.
"I need to know what's happening. I'm pregnant. You're the father," there was no pussyfooting around. I came straight to the point as was expected in the Tribe.
Jai smiled placing a hand around my stomach. "That's wonderful. I shall speak to Nugai and arrange things."
I sighed in relief, holding his hand in my smaller one. I would get away from Nugai and I would live openly with Jai. Best of all I would have his child.
"This shall start rounding soon," he said patting my stomach. "And these shall start growing!" he placed a hand on my large breasts, playing with my nipples. "I am a very lucky man! It shall be a boy. I know it."
I smiled, pushing my rounded behind into his lap. I didn't really care if it was a boy or a girl. I was just a little frightened about having a child. My life had been nothing but changes recently and this promised to be the greatest one so far. I leant back into his chest, forgetting about my worries for the moment as his hands began to caress my body again.
As soon as the visible signs of my pregnancy became evident, the other woman started to fuss over me. My work load became less and I started to carry out more domestic chores. Cooking, cleaning, washing, sewing and looking after children. Hard work such as working in the fields and carting water became less frequent and finally ceased altogether.
I was inundated with advice and well wishes from the village woman and copious amounts of charms, herbs and other strange trinkets to ward off bad spirits and to ensure the birth went well.
I was surprised when Dale's man turned up at our hut to buy her. She had never spoken about him to me or the other wives. Dale's man was from another village and he bought her before she had her child. It was very sad, like losing a sister. We had a private farewell party and discussed things.
"I'm not sure if I want to go back to my old life, even if I could. Poli is a gentle man with a heart of gold. I think I'll be happy with him," Dale said.
"If one of us ever does manage to escape and find a way to get our bodies back...?" Billie asked. She was the only one who hadn't put down ties and the only one that was still openly talking of escape. Both Franc and myself were more concerned with getting away from Nugai.
"Look me up. I might want to go back, but somehow I think this child will change my mind," Dale said.
Poli took her back to his village. I heard that she had a beautiful boy about a month after she left us.
The sale of Dale enriched Nugai to the tune of eight chickens, a pig, a heap of tobacco, some tools from the civilised world and a very large amount of rice. It also raised my station to that of third wife. The change was slight but I was accorded more respect by the village woman and, to a small degree, by the men.
Franc was also visibly pregnant and we ended up spending a lot of time together.
* * *
Andy turned up again, another man in tow. Izzie was from Israel and had just fished his stint in the army. He was cocky and loud and full of life but Andy was going to trick him in the same way as he tricked all of us. The three of us, Billie, Franc and myself waited in our room after serving dinner for the inevitable.
Unable to resist I watched through a crack in the wall as they passed Izzie the blanket and the medallion. I watched as his form shrunk and dwindled to that of a small hill tribe girl. Izzie was totally shocked, pulling of the t-shirt she wore and exposing her torso just as I had done. She had small pert breasts and smooth female skin. She looked only fifteen.
I understood Andy's comments this time but I ignored them. Andy approached the girl and took her money belt and valuables then left with his guide, another of Nugai's relatives.
Nugai then said, "sex." I went back to the others.
Two hours later Izzie entered naked and bewildered, a beaten expression on the young girls face. The body that Nugai had chosen was as attractive as the ones we wore. The girl had long hair, a beautiful face, small breasts, a slightly large rump and shapely legs. She was taller than me. Izzie had probably thought he could take on the world but the young man had been tricked and manipulated out of his body and identity. He was now a small frightened girl.
We went through the introductions, Billie taking the girl under her wing. It was very uncomfortable and I felt renewed anger well up towards Nugai and Andy.
* * *
The next night Andy turned up with a replica of Izzie.
He smiled at me, and the other girls.
"So you both got yourselves knocked up? Franc and Mike. You two must really love Nugai's equipment," Andy joked. "And did you have fun last night little girl?" Andy asked, turning to Izzie.
She swore back at him, fire in her eyes.
"That's the spirit. Nugai loves a woman with fire in her blood. It makes it that much more fun to break her. A pity you've got such small breasts. Mike here has wonderful tits, don't you? And they've grown so much since she got pregnant. I bet you wish you weren't so big huh?" Any smiled. "What happened to Dale? She got a husband did she? Well well. The world is full of surprises now, isn't it. I should tell you all that this is my last trip back. I've made my fortune. Back to Calgary for good now. It was nice knowing you all, in all of your incarnations. Look me up if you want. I'm under L for Livingstone," he laughed hard and loud at his joke. He was the only one laughing.
Once again Andy left, but this time he would never return to the village.
* * *
Lih, Franc's man approached Nugai with his offer to buy her and Nugai accepted it. Fortunately Lih was from the village and Franc and I were still able to spend time together.
Franc gave birth soon after. I'd never attended a birth before and as the second wife of the headsman I was expected to assist the village mid wife. It looked so painful. I held Franc's hand and consoled her but generally I felt useless. I did remember to boil the water and tried to sterilise all the natal cloths.
After an eternity Franc gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. I was so happy for her. She had her baby and she was free of Nugai.
* * *
Jai approached Nugai shortly after Franc's birth and offered to buy me. A pig, two cows, four chickens, a saw, a wind up radio and a large stainless steel pot. I don't know where he got the radio from but Nugai accepted. Nugai was now exceptionally rich and went around boasting about it incessantly. He claimed to have fathered three children, have owned the most beautiful wives in the village and that he still did. No body contradicted him.
I was happy. I moved in with Jai to his parents hut. It was much more cramped and I was suddenly subordinate to his mother and no longer had the prestige of being the headman's wife. It was all very odd but I was pregnant, had escaped Nugai and I had Jai. I was happy.
* * *
I spent a lot of time with Izzie, teaching her the basics of cooking and sewing. I hadn't realised it but I'd grown quite proficient at these tasks. When she wasn't with me she worked out in the fields with Billie. She seemed more resilient than myself and I was unsurprised when Billie and Izzie told me they were going to try to escape.
"What are you going to do?" I asked. They had asked if Franc and I wanted to come. I was too far along in my pregnancy and I had Jai. Franc had her child and was happy with her husband.
"Get back to a population centre and try and contact friends in our home countries. They must realise that there is something wrong with us by now. Hill tribe natives could never fool our friends and relatives for long. If we contact them in the right way I'm sure we can sort things out," Izzie explained. "Then we find Andy and sort things out with him."
"How are you going to get back to civilisation?" Franc asked.
"Anyway we can." Izzie said with determination. "We have food and we can walk. We'll make a raft to get downriver and we'll improvise the rest. Don't worry, we'll get there."
"Good luck," I said. "Come back for us if you're successful."
"I hope we can find you. I don't even know where this village is or what country we're in." Billie said.
I nodded in understanding.
* * *
Izzie and Billie disappeared the next day.
Nugai ordered a search but they weren't found and he declared them dead. I hoped that they'd both successfully escaped. I wondered what they were going to do once they returned to civilisation. It was a big world out there and they were no longer in their original bodies so they wouldn't have it easy. Getting out of Thailand seemed impossible. Surviving without money or contacts would be difficult unless they resorted to drastic means.
Nugai went a little crazy after that. He started following Franc and I around, keeping an eye on us. He had lost a lot of face when his two remaining wives had 'died'. Whispers sprung up about his virility. People questioned whether Nugai's wives were dead if they had really run away because their husband was sterile. They wondered why all his wives were so ready to leave him and Nugai was acutely aware of the gossip, even though nobody confronted him directly.
In his pursuit of wealth, Nugai seemed to have made a mistake. He knew that Andy wasn't coming back to replenish his stock of women and he was in a precarious position with reduced social prestige. He married one of the local girls but she was not anywhere near as attractive as Franc or myself. This grated on Nugai's ego. Most likely she would not become pregnant.
* * *
A month after Billie and Izzie escaped it happened. I was walking back to my new home, Jai's hut, carrying a basket full of vegetables when my water broke. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. I could go into graphic details here but suffice to say that it was messy.
I hobbled into the hut and called out to my stepmother. The moment she saw me she knew what had happened. She went to get the mid wife immediately.
I'd like to say it was wonderful. I wish it had been. But all I can remember from here on is the pain and yelling. I abused Jai even though he wasn't there. I swore and cursed my stepmother. I damned the chickens. I'm sure I said more but I don't remember it. I do remember sweating profusely and searing pain. Eternal, unrelenting pain that came in shuddering spasms. Then the pain was no more and I could feel the child finally come out.
My baby screamed and cried and I laughed. "She's just like you!" the midwife said as she tidied up my child and passed her gently to me. No whisking away to a sterile room like in civilised hospitals. Chickens pecked the floor and there was a scabby leprous dog in the corner of the dirty hut but I didn't care. I was thrilled.
I held the child to my breast and looked into the her milky glazed eyes. She was beautiful! She continued to wale and shriek as I smoothed her head and opened my top, pressing her to my swollen breast. Instinctively her hands sought out the nipple and she latched onto the soft skin of my breast. She started to suckle.
Feeling totally drained I half closed my eyes, content to just watch the small wonder on my breast. I nearly nodded off but jolted upright.
I saw the midwife take the placenta. She was going to go off and prepare it. I shuddered. I had to eat it later, one of the village customs that didn't appeal to me. Some things you just can't get used too no matter how liberal minded you are.
* * *
I was given a week to convalesce and it was in this time I noticed the changes I had gone through. Being inactive had caused me to put on weight. My breast were much larger with milk. I had a small paunch and my thighs and rump were chunkier. I also had noticeable stretch marks.
If this was the price to pay for having a child then I was happy to pay it. After all in the village it was a sign of prosperity to be fat and I felt very prosperous. A few weeks of hard work in the fields and I would lose the weight but for the moment I was happy.
As a man I had found babies mildly curious at the best of times. Sure they were cute but the novelty wore thin after a few hours. After that they became loud, obnoxious attention seekers which I could not relate too. As a mother this changed completely. I became attuned to my child. I could sense things about her. I knew when she was hungry, when she was tired and I naturally accommodated her.
I kept her hung in front of me whilst I worked so she could see my face.
Two months after her birth she became sick. I didn't know what to do. None of the medicines which we had worked. I knew I had to take her back to civilisation to see a doctor but Nugai wouldn't let me. I pleaded but Nugai was afraid I would flee or cause him trouble.
Jai was furious and confronted Nugai in the street. It was terrible.
"Let me take my child to the city!" Jai yelled. A small crowd gathered, intent upon the display.
Nugai laughed, "I fathered that child. She is mine. I say that she stays here," Nugai said, pushing Jai away.
"She needs medicine or she will die! She is my daughter. I bought Mikh off you." Jai yelled back, his face colouring.
Nugai's face darkened with anger. "You shall obey me. I am the Headman.
"You are a sterile mule! Your wives have left you because you are barren. Dale and Izzie fled from you because you could not father a child. I am the father of Mikh's child. Lih is the father of Francs. Poli is the father of Bih Lee's. You are nothing! Your seed is useless. Your line shall die out."
Nugai swung at Jai and hit him in the stomach but the blow had no real force. Jai hit the Headman back, knocking him out. There was silence. Jai had crossed the invisible line of social status and power.
Jai looked at the unconscious headsman, realising what he had just done. He turned to me, his mouth working. "I am sorry," he managed to say.
I nodded. I realised then that Jai had to leave. The headsman had power. He could have Jai killed. He could destroy Jai's family. Jai had to go into exile from the Tribe. I wanted to go, but if I did my child would surely die. Jai understood. he was going alone.
Jai quickly packed before the village men arrived or Nugai awoke. He kissed me on the forehead and placed a hand on my cheek. I could feel tears welling in my eyes. Jai looked at his daughter then to his mother. He left.
* * *
Nugai ranted and raved, threatening me and my child but it was all just bluster. Everyone knew in their hearts that Jai was right. I looked at the headman and in a moment of clarity I knew his days of leadership were numbered. I could see it in his eyes the desperate glint. He knew it as well. There was an edge to his voice, frantic and angry. Nugai was on a downward slide. His wealth and was nothing without social respect. He had lost too much face and was doomed, as surely as my child was.
My child continued to wither away, coughing and sputtering her young life through day and night. Something as simple as antibiotics may have well have been on the moon. She coughed and sputtered for a week then she was silent. It was the middle of the night. When she passed she took a bit of me. An important part of me.
I felt alone. Jai was gone and my child was no more. I didn't know what to do. I held her in my hands and stared at her small form. This was all that was left of my child. I packed food and my bulky clothes and left with her. It was that simple. I told no one. Nobody knew she was dead. Nobody knew that I was going.
I headed south. I walked, through the rains. Through the cold. I walked. One foot after another. I wasn't going to give in. After the first day I stopped. I looked down at my baby and cried. I just wanted to know why. After everything I had been through, why? I buried her there. In an unknown place, I dug a whole with my hands and a tree branch. I wrapped her in her swaddling, keeping only part of it and covered her up with soil. I placed a pile of rocks above her grave and kneeled in front of it. Unthinking I just stared.. I was going to get my child back.
Three days later I staggered into another village. I walked into the middle and sat down at a crude table. There was a coke banner and a beer sign on one of the huts. I was now on the edge of civilisation. The village headsman approached.
"Where are you from?" he asked. I pointed north. Our village was just the village. It had no name.
"Can you tell me. Do you have people from the outside world come through here?" I asked.
He nodded. "Yes, weekly. They trek. We sell them beer and food. They pay to use our huts," he smiled. This small amount of money made him very rich.
"I wish to join one of these groups. I want to go to civilisation," I said.
The man looked at me, "how do you expect to pay?" he asked.
Money? I had none. But I could barter. I'd done worse.
* * *
"So tell me Mikh, how do you know English so well?" the Canadian man asked. His name was Rob.
"I just do," I said. I liked the enigma and I didn't want to talk. I was clearly a young hill tribe girl and should nor have been able to speak English so fluently.
"No really. Tell me," Rob persisted.
I sighed. Being in the village had made me more communicative and lowered some of my defensive barriers. "All right. I once knew a man from New Zealand. His name was Mike. I knew him very well and for a long time. We were inseparable. One. Do you understand?" I could see Rob didn't really but he wouldn't believe the truth. I continued, "one day he was gone. He was taken from me. I don't know where he is. I don't know if we'll ever be together again, but I miss him and I want to find him if I can," I said. Mike felt like another person to me now and I felt more comfortable describing him as such.
"That's so sweet," Rob said. He obviously thought I'd never find Mike.
"There's another man. A man named Andy. He betrayed me and my friends. He sold us out. I have to find him as well." This I said with a grimness and finality that made the Rob pause. I smiled, turning away from my dark thoughts. I had also learnt resiliency in the village. Life had to go on, regardless of how hard it got, "So tell me about yourself. Where are you from?"
"A country called Canada."
"I know that. Which Province?" I knew enough about Canada to be able to hold up a conversation. A conversation which no Hill Tribe girl should have been able to.
"Alberta." My ears picked up at that. Andy had been from Calgary. I found out about the world and the changes that it had been through.
"So how are you going to find this Mike?" Rob asked.
"I'll contact his family and friends in New Zealand."
"How are you going to do that?"
"I'll get the money. Then I'll find a place to stay. Then I'll contact them. I'll wait till they come."
"You could stay with me and my friends if you want. We could use a local to help us find the best bargains."
I considered her offer. My Hill Tribe language skills were good but my Thai was poor. I'd still be able to communicate better than most foreigners though.
"It sounds like a deal," I said. I turned from Rob and watched as we made our way down the river. The last time I'd been on a boat like this had been a lifetime ago. The water flowing under me gave me the impression I was adrift. I'd left my life behind in the village but there was no real place for me in the civilised world. I smiled a crooked grin full of irony.
Rob continued to watch me, trying to understand me. I'd venture to say that he had no luck.
* * *
I joined Rob at one of the guest houses. It was a cosy place. We stayed there for two weeks. I couldn't really show him round but that didn't bother him. I think he rather fancied me. He was a great guy. Generous and carefree. We went everywhere together. We visited the tourist haunts, temples and markets.
I should have been contacting my family but I put it off. I was having so much fun. I was having a holiday and I was finding myself again after the loss of my child. I thought of the village and Jai often but it was like they were in another world and another life.
* * *
"This is great food. What is it?" Rob asked.
"You don't want to know," I said. We were walking through a market. It was a smelly bustling mess with almost anything you could imagine for sale. Silks and China, clothes and bags, butchered animals and fruit, wood crafts and bamboo carvings were stacked and piled everywhere.
"That bad?" he asked holding up the deep fried round ball.
"Yes," I nodded, my face screwed up. After what I'd eaten in the Hill Tribe village this seamed fairly tame, but somehow it was better not to tell him what it was.
"Hmmm." Rob paused, seeing a dress. "I think you'd look great in this little number."
"Really?" I asked, hands on hips. I was small but the dress looked smaller than me.
"Yep. Try it on. If it looks good, I'll buy it for you."
I considered. I needed more clothes. Deciding to not look a gift horse in the mouth I went to the makeshift changing room and tried it on. I came out a moment later. The dress was a little tight around my breasts and rump and was decidedly short but it looked good. Displayed my assets very well.
"Incredible. I'm buying it!" Rob said. I rolled my eyes as the vendor smiled. By being too enthusiastic. Rob had lost money before he'd even started to haggle.
"300 baht," the vendor pounced on his victim.
"No. It's too small. I won't wear it. It's scandalous," I said, trying to repair the damage.
Rob's shoulders slumped. "You don't like it?"
"No," I said with a wink.
Rob looked perplexed for a moment then realisation dawned. He turned to the salesman and shook his head. "Sorry, she doesn't like it."
I smiled and went back into the change room, listening.
"For you, special price, 250 baht," the vendor said.
"I'd like to buy it, but I'd be wasting my money. She won't wear it."
I grinned, wondering how much Rob would get the dress for.
When I emerged from the changing booth, Rob had two new bags. As we made our way through the crowd, I looked at him. "How much did you pay?"
I smiled. "You got done."
"Well I got you some other stuff as well. Two silk shirts." Her opened the bag to show me.
I smiled in appreciation. "Thanks."
"My pleasure. You just have to wear that dress tonight and we're even."
* * *
"Come on. You have to come out. My shout," Rob said. I was hearing this too often. His shout. He had money. Not a lot by western standards but plenty by eastern standards. So far he'd been paying for everything. Food, accommodation, my clothes and my upkeep. I didn't mind him doing it most of the time but at the moment it grated on my sensibilities. I was becoming indebted to Rob. "Besides you owe me for the dress."
"Oh, all right. But I'm not drinking," I said. I was all to familiar with the limits of my body. In particular was it's low tolerance for alcohol.
I squeezed into the tight dress. "You know, I think I need a bra. This thing doesn't hide very much."
"That's why I bought it for you."
* * *
I staggered drunkenly back into Rob's room. He laughed and loudly kicked off his shoes. He grabbed me in an embrace and hugged me as we collapsed onto the bed together. He pulled off the t-shirt I wore and my bra. He started kissing my breasts, reaching down to my dress to pull it off.
* * *
"Are you awake?" Rob asked rocking my naked body.
I groaned and turned over to face him, my breasts pressing into his chest. "Keep it down, my head is killing me. Oh man, that's the last time I go drinking with you." I said, my head pounding.
"You have regrets?" he asked placing a hand on my waist and running it back and forth.
I smiled and shook my head. "Just about the drinking."
"Then you wouldn't mind doing it again?"
"Not at all." I said, grabbing his hand and guiding it between my legs. "But this time you should use protection."
After we were done I lay beside him, snug in his arms.
"Come with me." Rob said, teasing my long dark hair. "Come back to Canada. You can try and catch this Andy guy," Rob said.
I looked across at him, eyebrow cocked questioningly. "And?"
"Just come with me. No strings attached," Rob said
I thought about his offer. I missed Jai. I liked Rob but he wasn't Jai. I felt torn between conflicting emotions. This was my passport back to a normal life. I didn't feel guilty about what Rob and I had been doing but I felt I owed Jai something more than this.
I sighed, my decision already made. "Okay." After all I still had unfinished business to attend to with Andy.
* * *
Rob helped organise me a passport. He had the money to grease the right palms to get it done. I couldn't read the scribble that was Thai so Rob paid someone to do it to fill in all the forms. He also organised things with the government for me to get all the things I didn't have. Birth certificate, License and proof of citizenship. It was amazingly simple to lubricate the bureaucratic machine when you had money. Without hard cash I would have never have got a ticket or a travelling Visa for Canada.
We flew back to Canada. Rob lived in the province of Alberta, in Calgary. It was incredibly cold here. As we climbed off the plane I realised that the body I was in had never been really cold. Sure it got cold in the hills, but not in the same way. It was sub zero here.
Rob had finished his holidays and would be returning to work soon. He swung by a friends place and picked up his twin cats, Mo and Curly, one male one female. Then we took the taxi to his home.
"Welcome to my place," Rob said as we entered his house. It was a little messy, a bachelor pad. There was all the mod cons that I had lived without for the last year but they didn't mean much to me.
We got takeaway and I had my first western food for ages. I would have preferred some fish an chips, but this was Canada, not New Zealand so I settled for some fries and a burger. It was greasy as all get out but it tasted great after nothing but rice and Asian food for ages.
"I was thinking," Rob started.
I looked up from my burger, "you guys should have egg in these things. Egg and pineapple. You don't know what you're missing. Nothing like a burger with the lot. Sure cheese and onion are great, bacon, lettuce and tomato are mandatory but you haven't lived till you've had a real New Zealand burger. Forget the beetroot though. That stuff is evil." I opened up the top and piled some fries on top of the burger then put the bun back on. "And chips. You need chips. Chips are fat fries." I paused thinking about all the junk food I loved. "Dim sims and potato cakes. Spring rolls. Flake. Fish and chips. Souvlaki and doner kebabs..." I took another bite. Even if this was only an American burger it was pretty good.
"This is important. Do you want to stay? Permanently?"
I paused in mid chew. "Hruh?" I chewed rapidly then swallowed hurriedly, the food running down my throat roughly. "Stay?" I asked reaching for my cup of coke and sucking on the straw.
"Well, um, I mean I'll, er," I struggled for an answer.
"Sorry to throw this on you all of a sudden."
"That's okay. Let me think about it, okay?"
Rob nodded and reached forward, holding my greasy hand. "Okay," he paused, "when did you go to New Zealand Mikh."
"You were talking about New Zealand food. Burgers and stuff."
"Oh, Mike used to make them. He was from New Zealand."
* * *
The next day Rob went off to work leaving me to my own devices. Remembering Andy's last name was easy. I looked him up in the phone book, found his address and I took the bus to his place. The bus trip gave me time to think and plan.
Wrapped against the cold in one of Rob's jackets I stood outside Andy's place and waited. My small body once again reacted poorly to the cold. It gave me time to remember my first night as a woman. I'd been cold then. Anger warmed my body.
I waited until finally Andy left. As soon as he was out of site I walked over his house, breaking a basement window and sneaking in that way. I carefully searched his house until I found the Medallion in one of his drawers. I tried to use it on myself with his clothes to no avail. It didn't seem to work on me. I realised taht it must only work once on each person. I'd hoped that it would work more than once but my body remained unchanged. I was not sure if I was unhappy about that or not.
Realising that Andy could get back any time I rearranged everything to cover up my searching then crept into a closet and waited.
* * *
Much later Andy returned, probably three o'clock. He was drunk and climbed into bed fully clothed, He started to snore straight away. I crept out of the closet and approached him. Looking down at his face I scowled. I loathed this man. I put the Medallion around his neck, careful not to wake him. I reached into my bag and pulled out my dead babies wrap and touched it to the Medallion.
Andy snorted and opened his eyes suddenly. "Who?" he looked at me. "Mike? What are you doing here!" He jumped from bed and went to grab me but his arms were already shrinking into his body. "What are you doing to me?" He asked holding up his arms.
"I'm here to take back what is mine. I had a little girl but because of you she died. You're going to replace her."
"What?" he asked, his voice notably higher. He was shrinking before my eyes, his skin changing pigmentation, hair colour darkening, his frame rapidly dwindling.
In moments he was a small girl but the changes didn't stop there. She kept growing younger. Next Andy was a toddler, then a baby. She opened and closed her hands in front of her. I disengaged her from her old clothes and enfolded her in the wrap. "Who's a beautiful baby girl?"
The baby didn't answer she was too stunned.
I took the Meddallion from around her neck. It was useless as it could not change me now. I considered taking it back with me to Thailand and using it on Nugai. This raised other questions. Did I really want to go back? I was uncertain and there was so many things I was uncertain about. Jai, Andy, Nugai and Rob were all major considerations.
There was a life for me with the Tribe but it would not be easy. Jai was banished and I had disobeyed Nugai, something which he would not take lightly. I had a daughter but she wasn't really mine. She was Andy, a man I loathed and had tricked in much the same way he had tricked me. Could I really call her my daughter? Would I love her knowing who she was? I didn't know.
Equally there was a life for me with Robert. I had used him to get here and obtain my revenge but I truly had feelings for him. I thought about his offer. I had lived a stint amongst the Hill Tribe, learnt their ways and customs and made some great friends and fallen in love but I still felt like an outsider. I truly was of the western world regardless of my appearance. I was not certain if I could even find the village and if I did if I could find Jai.
I knew that life would never be the same again for me. Not here in Canada nor in the Hill Tribe in Thailand. The differences in culture between the east and west was incredible. Being a white man in New Zealand was worlds away form being a young girl in a Hill Tribe. But being a young Asian girl in Canada with no proven education would likewise not be without it's difficulties. I thought about being female in the western world. It was not as bad as being female in the eastern world. I quite enjoyed being female. I was younger than I had been originally and had a whole new body and future to explore.
"Gwat hrave yrou drone troo mre?" the baby asked in a slurping voice. I thought it over. She wanted to know what I had done to her. Andy was still there. I couldn't raise this child. I couldn't love her. I would have to send her away and I was staying here in Canada. I was not going back to Thailand. It was that simple.
* * *
"Rob, I have to tell you something," I started.
"Where did you get that baby from?" he asked me.
"It's part of what I have to tell you. Let me start with the ground breaking news first. My real name is Mike..." I told him everything.
He was sceptical. "Show me this Meddallion then. I want to see it work."
"Well okay, I'll use it on your cats. I'll change them around." I took off each of their collars and swapped them. Then I touched the Medallion to each collar. The animals started to change. Within minutes the male had become female and the female was male. They were confused. Rob was amazed. He'd seen the transformation and hardly believed it.
"So you used to be a guy. And she was once a full grown man? If I hadn't just seen the cats I'd say you were a nutter. Now I think I'm the crazy one," Rob said.
"You aren't. It's real," I stated.
"So that thing only works once?" Rob asked.
"I think so. It won't change me and I've already been changed," I said.
"So what are you going to do?"
"Send Andy here away somewhere. I was hoping that the offer was still open. To stay with you?"
"Of course it is."
"Well I want to take Andy here to the hospital. Get her shots and so on. Is that Okay?" I also wanted to some tests on myself. Clear up some of my own worries, one way or another.
"Sure, lets go." I put the Meddallion in my hand bag and we went off to the hospital.
* * *
Andy had her shots and cried like a baby. I also had a full medical, blood tests and everything else. As we came back to the car I noticed something. The window had been smashed. "The car! It's been robbed."
We rushed over to examine the damage. The stereo was gone as were some CD's. I thought of everything that had been in there. "My bag! It had the Medallion in it."
"Oh no!" Rob said.
I shrugged. "Well that's no great loss. It was useless to me any way, unless you wanted to change?"
"No, that's fine with me. Goodbye and good riddance is what I say," Rob said, placing an arm over my shoulder.
* * *
"Are you sure you want to put your daughter up for adoption?" the man asked.
I nodded, "I just can't raise her. I know you'll find a good home for her. She'll make someone very happy," I looked down at the baby in my arms. There was the slightest glimmer of intelligence there. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I thought of Andy and realised that I still hated him. That hate would destroy any happiness that this child could bring. Whether it was Andy or not, I sould always think of her as Andy and not my daughter.
Passing the baby over to the man I smiled. It was forced and I think he could tell. I didn't envy this man. Having to take children off mothers would be terrible.
"She will make someone very happy. Thankyou."
"Thankyou and goodbye. Bye Andrea," I waved. Her face went petulant as though she were going to cry in rage.
I walked out, a chapter in my life completed.
* * *
I looked at the test results one more time to confirm them. "Who'd have thought it. I'm pregnant!"
"Am I... the father?" Rob asked
"Yes you dope. I haven't slept with anyone else since the birth. That drunken night seems to have done the trick," I said. I was overjoyed. It was another chance at having a child. This time it would work out right.
I'd just got the tests back from the hospital. I had been dreading the news, but I was all clear. It had been good news actually. I sighed. This clinched it. I was staying here. I could not go back to Thailand with a half caste child. In the village he or she would be an outcast. Jai might or might not understand but for the good of this child I was going to have to stay here.
"Well, um. Will you marry me? I'm old fashioned but I think that a child should have a father. Besides it will keep you in the country."
I smiled. "Since you put it so romantically..."