135 Unexpected Reactions

The first order of business was to get back inside. All this walking in the snow was chilling me, and since I wasn’t as large as I used to… no. I laughed at myself. Remembering that my memories were mostly somebody else’s was going to be hard to get used to. It was really a good thing that I hadn’t found out for months; that I hadn’t found out until I realized that I liked being a girl. I shudder to think how I would have reacted if I’d learned this the first time I’d gone hunting for the lab.

It was getting on to mid-afternoon and the snow had stopped, leaving a 6” field for me to tromp through. The streets in town were at least being plowed continually; on campus, it wasn’t all that easy even to tell where the walkways were supposed to be. While I was glad that I wasn’t Marshall, and had never been Marshall, just for the next hour or so, it would be really nice if I could borrow his long legs.

The first group of students I spotted seemed to be enjoying the snow a lot more than I was, but were at least apologetic when one of their hurled snowballs missed its intended target and caught me on the arm. I brushed off the little bit that sprayed into my face and smiled an acknowledgment. If all wasn’t quite right with the world, at least the main things were, and a little bit of snow was hardly going to kill my mood.

My roommates were out when I got back to my room, so I stripped off my clothes and luxuriated in a hot shower. I thought about Jeremy’s suggestion that memories hadn’t actually been overwritten; would that mean that I had two sets of memories, now? And I just didn’t know how to get at the other set? Would that work the same way amnesia did? Maybe I could do some research on how amnesia worked and whether it was curable.

I saw Lee Ann’s door open when I came out of the bathroom in my bathrobe, so I poked my head in and said hello.

“Hello yourself,” she replied, looking up from her computer. “Didn’t see you at lunch.”

“No, I had lunch with Jeremy.”

“Must have been a good lunch,” she observed. “You’re bubbling.”

“I guess I am,” I laughed. “I need to tell Terry and you about it.”

“I look forward to it!”

I got dressed and called Vicky. “Are you busy?” I asked. “I have something incredible to tell you!”

“Oh?” she asked cautiously. “About what?”

“I want to tell you in person. I want to see your face when you hear it!”

She responded in a very neutral tone. “I’m doing some drawing, so why don’t you come over?” It would have been nice to hear some enthusiasm to match my own, but then she didn’t know what a bombshell I was about to drop.

“I’ll come right over,” I promised, trying to imagine her relief at learning the truth. It wasn’t until I was actually at her dorm that I realized I wasn’t actually sure that she would be relieved. What if she was disappointed? Well, I’d started the day with a focus on truth, and I certainly owed Vicky that. I just wished I knew the best way to tell her, just in case.

My worries, it turned out, were optimistic.

“You found them?” she exclaimed when I’d gotten to that part of my story. “Then why are you still a girl? Why haven’t you changed back?”

“There is no ‘back,’ Vicky. I’ve always been a girl. The memories we have aren’t our own!” I told her what I’d learned. I could see that she wasn’t taking it well.

She just stared at me for a moment; I felt like a schoolgirl who had been called to the Vice-Principal’s office. “Let me get this straight,” she hissed. “You’re saying that we never dated? That we were actually complete strangers until a few months ago? That everything I believe about us is a lie?”

“Well, not actually a lie,” I tried to explain. “It was Marshall and the other Vicky who dated. We just have their memories.”

“What a load of crap!” she snapped. “Do you really expect me to believe that?”

“Well,” I said awkwardly, “It makes sense, doesn’t it?”

“You’re telling me that two total strangers built up the kind of relationship we’ve had for the past few months? You told me that it’s not true that all the guys I’ve been dating are jerks, that I could know I’m good enough to find a decent guy because I dated you, and now you’re saying I didn’t? That I’m not good enough?”

“Uh…” I hadn’t thought of that interpretation. I scrambled to find a different way to look at it, but she just kept right on going.

“You know what I think? I think you’re estrogen-poisoned, Marshall. I think you’ve been a girl so long, and you think you’re in love with a boy, so now you want it to be true that you were always female. I think you think it would be easier for you that way. It solves all your problems, doesn’t it? No need to feel guilty about your change messing up other people’s lives. No need to face whatever might happen if you change back.

“I think you fantasized the whole thing. Well don’t worry, Marshall.” She patted my cheek. “We’ll find them for real, soon enough. And we’ll get you changed back and you’ll be able to think clearly again. When you’re yourself, you’ll be much happier, you’ll see.”

I tried again. “Vicky, it’s real. I did find the real guys. I spoke with Davis and Harlin.”

“Why are you doing this to me?” she asked, sounding hurt.

“I’m not doing anything to you,” I said, starting to have a bit of trouble speaking patiently. “I’m just telling you the truth.”

“It’s Kevin, isn’t it? You’re getting back at me because of Kevin, right? But I broke up with him, Marshall. I did.” She started to tear up. “Please stop this. Tell me you still love me. Tell me you still want us to be together. That’s what we’ve been working toward isn’t it?”

My jaw hung loose. I stared. What was I supposed to do now? I started backing up. “Vicky,” I said tentatively, “I think I’d better come back another time, OK?”

“But you will come back, right? We’re still working on finding Professor Davis, aren’t we? Aren’t we?

“Uhhh… absolutely, Vicky. I’ll call you tomorrow.” I didn’t wait for an answer. I backed out of her room and shut the door before she could say anything more.”

I found myself actually trembling. That had not been the way I had expected her to react. I’d been so ecstatic to learn the truth, that it hadn’t occurred to me that she wouldn’t be. And what did that mean about telling Nikki’s brother, whom I didn’t even know?

I called Nikki as I started back to my dorm, feeling definitely deflated. I had to talk this out with somebody I knew would believe me. Would she still want me to speak with Ben? “C’mon, c’mon,” I muttered as the phone rang. And rang.

And went to voice mail. “Hey, this is Nikki. Leave me a message, OK?”

I snapped my phone off. Stupid. She’s not spending the day waiting around for your call. She’s spending it with her boyfriend. I wished that I could be doing the same thing. Why did Jeremy have to be working downtown? Of course, if he hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have found Davis, and I wouldn’t have learned the truth… and I wouldn’t have just really upset Vicky… whom it turns out that I hadn’t dated for six months…

Should I blame her? I’d heard the truth from the horse’s mouth, and I was still struggling to keep things straight.

I was most of the way back to my dorm when Nikki called back. “Hey Marsh, what’s up?”

“I’m starting to have second thoughts about explaining this to your brother,” I admitted. “I just told Vicky, and things did not go well.”


I explained about Vicky’s refusal to believe me, and her accusation that I was making it all up. Nikki sounded thoughtful as she listened.

“Wow, that’s really not good.”

“And worse yet, I think some of it might be my fault. I’d told her that the ‘fact’ that we’d dated proved that she was better than she thought she was. Now what do I do?”


“I can’t leave her expecting me to want to turn into a boy, Nikki. We might not have had the relationship we both remember, but we’ve spent a lot of time together over the past few months. Whatever the past, we’re friends now, and you don’t abandon friends. At least I hope I never have.” Uncomfortably, I remembered that I hadn’t spoken with Maddy and the others much since winter break, either. I’d figured I didn’t have all that much to say to them, since they were really Marsha’s friends. What a mess.

“How do you convince her of the truth, though? You can’t do the impossible, Marsh.”

“No, I know that. And the same applies to your brother, I suppose. I mean, I have a sort of idea of something I could try with him, but it might not work, and I need something more for Vicky and maybe some of the others.”

“Could you bring them to meet the experimenters?” she asked.

“I could try that,” I said doubtfully. “They didn’t seem too comfortable with me being there, but they did talk to me. I do have Davis’s number and email. I suppose I can ask.”

“OK. What’s your idea for Ben?”

I’d reached my dorm, so I sat on the steps. There wasn’t much traffic, so I wouldn’t be heard by anyone I didn’t want to let in on the secret yet. “You remember how quickly I ‘learned’ how to sew? Obviously, it was because I really did know how. So it makes sense that Ben really does know how to play the guitar – all I need to do is get him to try. I may not be able to play, but I have Marshall’s memories, so I bet I could coach him through it. All I need to do is get him to try.”

“I don’t know, Marsh. He’s been pretty resistant.”

“But do you think it’s worth a try? If it doesn’t work, I can still hope to get Davis to talk to him.”

I heard her hesitate. “You know what? At this point, I don’t think you could make things worse – and maybe he will try for you. Good luck.”

“Thanks, Nikki – for everything.” I hung up and went inside. Things weren’t exactly resolving, here.

But I did get another chance when I got to my room and found Terry and Greg there. After quick hellos Terry asked, “Is this a good time, Marsh? Lee Ann said you had something exciting to share.”

Hoping that this time might be luckier, I nodded. Greg got the hint. “Roommate talk, huh? OK.” He gave her a passionate kiss. “I’ll call you later, Gorgeous. Bye, Marsh.” And he left.

Terry ran to get Lee Ann, I put away my coat, and then we all assembled back in the living room.

“So,” I started, “I’m afraid I hadn’t told you guys everything about what happened to me in that experiment.”

“Told you,” Lee Ann said, nudging Terry.

“And it turns out that I was wrong about what had happened, in any case. For one thing, I, um, didn’t used to have a bigger bust.”

They watched me, patiently.

“It turns out… that I was never changed physically at all.”

“Then what did happen?” Terry asked, sounding confused.

“They gave me different memories,” I explained. “Memories of a different person – somebody I might have been if I hadn’t been me.”

“Clear as mud,” Lee Ann muttered.

“Memories…” I continued, watching them carefully for a reaction, “memories of who I might have been if I’d been born a boy.”

For a few seconds, they didn’t move. They just froze in place, both of them. Then they looked at each other. Then back at me. And then, as though they had rehearsed it, they both said, “Whaaat?” at the same time.

I spoke quickly to get it all out as fast as I could, before they might stop listening to me. “Most of my memories before last midterm break are those of a boy named Marshall who is my sister’s big brother in a different reality, and until this morning, I thought that I was Marshall and that this wasn’t really my body.” I tried to see some understanding in their faces, but mostly what I saw was shock. “I did say that I used to be bigger…That’s really what I meant. Marshall is about eight inches taller then I am.” I hung my head. “I’m really, really sorry for not telling you guys sooner; I was just super scared of what you’d say and I didn’t want people to see me as a freak, and I was afraid you’d kick me out and nobody would want to talk to me or room with me…”

The next thing I knew I was in the middle of a group hug.

“Omigosh, Marsh,” Lee Ann said. “That’s terrible.”

“Why would we kick you out?” Terry asked.

“Well, when it first happened, and I was measuring you, and you… took of your underwear… I thought I should be turned on, so… I snuck a few peeks.”


“And… I wasn’t turned on by looking at you at all!”

To my surprise, she started laughing. Laughing! “Well, I would hope not! Oh you poor thing. Did you forget that we’ve been friends for like a year and a half? I knew you’d been acting strangely for a few months, but I had no idea why.”

“And I’ve known you for almost a year, Marsh,” Lee Ann added. “We’re friends, although you didn’t really know that when this happened to you. Nobody’s kicking anybody out.”

I felt like crying. Actually, forget that. I did cry. I tried to resist for just a second out of habit before I remembered. The two of them just held me.

After they finally released me, Lee Ann gave me a thoughtful look. “Marsh, if you have a boy’s memories, does that mean that you know how boys think?”

“I think so,” I answered. “At least I know how Marshall thinks.”

“That might be very useful,” she said with a grin.

The two of them pumped me for “inside information” on boys until almost dinner time. Lee Ann thought it hysterical that I remembered Geoff and Rajiv from Marshall’s life, and asked about their previous love lives. I cautioned her that what I remembered might not actually match our reality – and then told her everything.

Eventually, we decided to do just a bit of work before dinner. I checked my mail and went through the usual chore of deleting the spam emails that had gotten past the school’s and my filters. One of them make me take a second look.

The subject “Are you the girl I met today?” and the from address “sender15a6b@anonymizer.nu” sure seemed like indicators of spam, but the contents said:

Not sure if I have the right person, but if you’re the girl who came to our administrative
offices today, please reply with the room number.

It was them – and suddenly they wanted to talk.



  1. scotts13 says:

    That was the most satisfying chapter we’ve seen for a while. Too bad about poor Vicki loosing her marbles like that… assuming she’s not actually right.

  2. TJ says:

    I knew Vicky would take this the hardest and i almost felt like crying.

  3. von says:

    Sigh (c).

    I liked the ending… indeed I wrote something similar in my head myself. But it is disappointing to me, at least, that the only tension seems to be Vicky going quickly insane.

    But, then, who am I….

    (PS I liked the ending, a lot. I personally would like to see… oh, never mind)

  4. Don says:

    Terry: “Did you forget that we’ve been friends for like a year and a half?”

    Uh, yeah, that’s what she just got done telling you, you silly girl…

  5. Russ says:

    Marsh learned that she and Terry had been friends for a long time back in chapter 60:

    Terry’s comment made one thing obvious – she had met Marsha early last year, and would probably have known any really close friends she had had.

  6. Wei-Hwa Huang says:

    @scotts13: “That was the most satisfying chapter we’ve seen for a while.”

    Wow, I couldn’t disagree more. This chapter was painful, as Marsha exhibits both a lack of consideration and foresight (for how Vicki might take the truth) and a lack of discretion (for whom it’s safe to tell things to). I mean, she got lucky in that Terry and Lee Ann took it well, instead of getting creeped out. And, you know, maybe the secret backgrounds of alternate-Geoff and alternate-Rajiv aren’t really secrets that Marsha should be sharing?

    I liked the character of Marshall-in-Marsha’s-body quite a bit, but so far Marsha-with-Marshall’s-memories isn’t nearly as likable.

  7. von says:


    Wow, interesting comments. Musing on them…

  8. scotts13 says:

    >> Wow, I couldn’t disagree more. This chapter was painful, as Marsha exhibits both a lack of consideration and foresight, and a lack of discretion.

    Oh, come on – like that’s anything new. Marsh (either variant) has never exhibited any of those qualities. This is more of the same, almost classic Marsh. I like it because something is happening – remember when were were just listening to her prattle on about her stage role?

    I must admit you’re right about one thing: Now that we “know” the real back-story, Marsh has become much less interesting, and less likeable. The central conflict is being “resolved” by not thinking about it anymore. (Sigh) I still hold out hope for the new message from the so-called experimenters.

  9. Russ says:

    I must admit you’re right about one thing: Now that we “know” the real back-story, Marsh has become much less interesting, and less likeable. The central conflict is being “resolved” by not thinking about it anymore. (Sigh)

    Heh. This is why my intention was to end the story with Marsh leaving the lab, happy about the revelation. I was talked into extending the story a bit to try to resolve some other issues; I hope you guys feel its worth it.

  10. Don says:

    @ Russ: “Marsh learned that she and Terry had been friends for a long time back in chapter 60:”

    The way Terry said it sounded like she expected Marsh to remember that they had been friends for a year and a half (including details of all that time), when Marsh still doesn’t remember any of their friendship prior to four months ago. Whether she ever does is yet to be determined, at least until you reveal it. 😉

  11. Don says:

    “Uhhh… absolutely, Vicky. I’ll call you tomorrow.” I didn’t wait for an answer. I backed out of her room and shut the door before she could say anything more.”

    One too many quotes there.

  12. Don says:

    ‘took of your underwear’ -> ‘took off your underwear’

  13. von says:

    >>Heh. This is why my intention was to end the story with Marsh leaving the lab, happy about the revelation. I was talked into extending the story a bit to try to resolve some other issues; I hope you guys feel its worth it.

    Don’t think that was Scott’s point, know it wasn’t mine. I want the conflicts resolved not (as Scott says) by merely ignoring them, but by dealing with them. I want Marsh to have to make a hard, painful, difficult, decision… make it, do it, and have to live with the consequences.

    IMO having him merely ‘leave the lab’ ‘happy about the (unimportant) revelation’ would have climaxed precisely nothing. Now, if the experimenters do offer him a chance to at least try to ‘get his old life back’ and he has to make a decision about it… that (either direction) would be a ‘climax’. Or even if he had made a difficult decision to try to get back… and then had it not work… that would have been a climax.

    But, IYB.

  14. von says:

    @ Scott

    I have great hopes for it too… but not too great. Russ seems to dislike active tensions actively resolved. Sigh (c).

  15. TJ says:

    I must be a bad reviewer cause I do not see these same issues as you guys do.

  16. Don says:

    @TJ: No it just means you bring a different set of experiences to the table, and see the story through a different set of biases – something that I fear is forgotten by some of the posters on another site we both frequent… 😉

  17. Don says:

    Perhaps I should have said ‘preconceptions’ instead of ‘biases’, but the point remains the same – how we receive and react to the story is due in no small part to our own expectations and preconceptions, as well as the author’s intent.

  18. TJ says:

    Nice way of putting it, ty

  19. von says:

    @Don and TJ

    IMO what is most helpful to an author is to get a wide variety of ‘reviews’ from sources as different as possible. Successful authors write a wide range of material… Shakespeare is very different from OS Card, and they are both very different from Tom Clancy. If Russ is to become a successful writer, then he will need to find his own niche and his own success. He originally wrote me and (as he points out) I said that, for me, chapter 133 would make a very unsatisfactory climax. He then decided to write on.

    He has built a rather successful fan base here… even counting us fans who seem to do nothing but criticize (which is not even true, as both Scott and I have our times when we say ‘yeah’ or ‘best chapter ever’ etc.). These fans have, hopefully, helped him to have written a better book (and pointed toward a better rewrite) than he would have if we had all been silent or just written ‘nice chapter, Russ, I enjoyed it’ or some such pap.

    Write on, Russ…

  20. von says:

    You wrote:
    I must be a bad reviewer cause I do not see these same issues as you guys do.

    Let me ask you a question. What overall book tensions do you see? And how do you see Chapter 133 as having resolved them?

    (I am happy to list my list, but wanted to give TJ an unbiased chance to respond.)

  21. scotts13 says:

    >> I said that, for me, chapter 133 would make a very unsatisfactory climax. He then decided to write on.

    REALLY? There was discussion of ending it right there? Talk about a fizzle… You know, I’ve always had this anachronistic image of Marsha. Maybe it was the emphasis on her old fashioned clothing, or her (sometimes) conservative attitude, but I keep seeing her as a 50’s bobby-soxer – with the pre-feminism airhead stereotype that went with it. If it was really going to end with “Whee! It’s OK, I really AM a girl!” I think Russ owes us a least one full-cast singing, dancing performance as we exit the theater.

    “We go together, like rama lama lama, ke ding a de dinga a dong!”

  22. Wei-Hwa Huang says:

    I think a lot of this ties into what the notion of “identity” is, and there really is a fundamental difference between how people view it.

    Had my philosophy been identical to Marsh’s, I would’ve thought that 133 would be a fine place to end the story. I’ve been angsting about something, but then I’ve discovered that I’ve completely misinterpreted the situation and the real situation is something that’s been favorable to me all along. That’s a good place to end the story. With the real knowledge in hand, any unresolved issues in the future will eventually be resolved and is just epilogue.

    The problem is that some of us just don’t agree with Marsh. We don’t think that the situation changes just because you’re having someone else’s memories as opposed to being transported into another body. So for those of us who believe that *that’s* how identity works, the “ending” of 133 resolves nothing. It is at best the beginning of the dénouement. We still see tons of problems coming up, such as with Vicki.

    Here’s yet another interpretation. The body our main character is in effectively has two identities in it, Marsha and Marshall. For a long time Marsha was the only identity in it, then suddenly after the experiment Marshall showed up and Marsha was pushed out, unknown whether she was gone or merely suppressed. As Marshall adapts to the situation and the body, parts of Marsha creep back in. Marshall fights to maintain his existence, but the inexorable truths of the situation and other people make it harder and harder to sustain that existence. In 133, Marshall’s last bastion falls, and Marsha reasserts control of her original body, with Marshall just being cast aside as a bunch of “false memories”. Well, the problem is, some of us readers *like* Marshall. We’ve been following him through all these struggles, whereas we know little about Marsha as she tries to show up little by little. This chapter is effectively the death of Marshall at the hands of Marsha, and, well, we don’t like it.

    But! One thing I’ve learned as a reader is, one shouldn’t be angry at the author just because he/she did bad things to characters one likes. I still greatly appreciate Russ for writing this story, and had Russ decided that ending the story at 133 was the best for his message, I would have accepted it. I am happy that Russ has decided in his graciousness to continue the story to see how these other viewpoints turn out, but I think of it as a gift, not a right.

  23. April says:

    I know everybody is raving about how awesome this chapter was, but when I read it, I think I found it to be vaguely dissatisfying.

    When I look at Vicky’s conversation, I feel like simply cutting out this paragraph:

    “I think you fantasized the whole thing. Well don’t worry, Marshall.” She patted my cheek. “We’ll find them for real, soon enough. And we’ll get you changed back and you’ll be able to think clearly again. When you’re yourself, you’ll be much happier, you’ll see.”

    Really tightens the whole conversation up, although it would probably require some redoing of the conversation with Nikki. After all, while I think that it’s quite reasonable for Vicky to be /in disbelief/ (or to believe there is more that could be done that they’re not talking about), it seems a bit weird for her to /not believe/. Does that make sense?

  24. von says:

    @ Huang. Wow. My problem is that I know how I want the story to end. I guess I am too much of a writer to be a good reader anymore.

    @ April. Definitely. I would expect her to kick in with dozens of questions and alternate possibilities. This Vicki seems close to catatonic… and I didn’t think it was that kind of book.

  25. Don says:

    @April: Remove that particular paragraph entirely? IMO, that’s the _key_ paragraph for Vicky – it shows the depths of her rejection of Marsh’s revelation, and just how important getting Marshall back has become to her. This is a borderline psychotic break, if not actually one, as she has been presented with a (admittedly somewhat) more mundane explanation for what has happened to both of them, and that paragraph illustrates that she has utterly and completely rejected that explanation, intending to hold out for her solution where she gets Marshall back. Downright disturbing in a way… 🙁

  26. Don says:

    I almost think that Marsh should have had something more akin to Vicky’s reaction – Marsh’s personality is still mostly (if not almost entirely) Marshall’s, and nearly _all_ of her memories prior to the experiment. To be suddenly told that the sum total of your memories & personality are _false_ should have been far more distressing to her, I would think. Sure, she now has apparently carte-blanche to go off and have happy fun times with Jeremy without the angst, but I just don’t buy that she can suddenly view Marshall as this other person, when his past is hers, at least until her own memories and personality come back.

    Or is this the beginning of that process? Is this Marsha’s personality coming to the fore, seemingly from out of nowhere?

  27. von says:

    So, let me get this straight. Huang things that we should go catatonic because we’ve lost Marshall, Don thinks that Marsh should go catatonic for the same reason, and April thinks that Vicki shouldn’t.

    OK, I’m cool with that. Just a couple of small changes for Russ to write in 🙂

  28. April says:

    Russ is splitting the fanbase! Run for the hills!

  29. Don says:

    @von: I never said (or meant to say) that Marsh should go catatonic, just that she flipped from wanting to become Marshall again to fully accepting being Marsha way too quickly IMO.

  30. April says:

    Indeed. And even if she is “supposed” to be a girl, she’s still somewhere in-between, in her head. Getting permission to be a girl is probably very liberating, but doesn’t change that fact.

  31. von says:

    @ Don
    I was having fun! But certainly there is more reason for Marsh to go catatonic than there is for Vicki… except she seems to have been unstable from the get-go.

  32. Jerf says:

    I just want to know when Friday’s chapter comes out.

  33. scotts13 says:

    One wonders if the tone of the comments themselves aren’t “Unexpected Reactions.” I somehow doubt Russ thought what he was writing wasn’t good; I’m going to try very hard to avoid further negativity until I see “The End” appear on the page.

  34. von says:

    >>I just want to know when Friday’s chapter comes out.

    My current guess is… not on Friday 🙂

  35. Michael says:

    I fully expected Vicky’s reaction, it should have been obvious to anyone who has been paying attention.

    I think mentioning the fact it was planned to end 133 suggests the story is over, there is no more suspense, and the email from the researchers will lead to nothing. I will say that all the time spent inside Marsha’s head for so many chapters seems more useful now that we know this is where the problem has been all along.

    Unless Russ has a new twist planned and has reconsidered the ending. It feels rather unsatisfying, so many questions unanswered, such as the impact on Marshall and others in his realm. And why the memory transfer appears to have happened between exactly two of the many worlds. And how the test subjects appear to have completely forgotten their lives in this realm, whereas the original lab incidents which preceded the research project appear to have been isolated to a single observed result in an experiment, a relatively minor impact.

    I want more.

  36. von says:

    >>I fully expected Vicky’s reaction, it should have been obvious to anyone who has been paying attention.

    Well, I guess i wasn’t then. I was expecting more hysterical clingy than catatonic. I even have some vague hopes that Vicki will pull Marsh out of his complacency and let him see that… it ain’t over! As I said, chapter 133 could well have been chapter 33 (number purely by alliteration, I have no idea if it is 33, 22, or 11 I am really thinking of)

    Ironically I just read a published-but-free-online book that left me similarly unsatisfied, altho in this case by the ‘wrong’ ending. If anyone is interested it is here:

    I want more too. Luckily I am a writer and so can work off my frustrations by writing more!

  37. Michael says:

    >> I was expecting more hysterical clingy than catatonic.

    Fair enough, I didn’t know *exactly* how she would react but I knew it wouldn’t be good. She had all her hopes tied up in returning to the life she remembers and a renewed relationship with (in her mind) the only man who could save her from her low self esteem. She broke up with her abusive boyfriend solely on that premise. It simply never occurred to her that it might not happen.

    I think stopping at 133 would have been a disaster. As it stands, Russ still has a chance to bring this thing in for a smooth landing, i.e. not David Lynch style.

  38. Michael says:

    By the way I don’t see Vicky as catatonic. I see her as extremely jealous of Marsh’s relationship with Jeremy and insecure enough to believe Marsh is making it up so she can stay a girl – the ultimate rejection. The fact Marsh has been leaning this way for a while certainly feeds her fears.

  39. Jim says:

    1. Thank God it didn’t end with happy, skipping, bouncy Marsh. We all owe you one Von. I’ve read far too many stories that end with ambiguity or more loose ends than a bucket of fettuccine. Thank you for taking the time to tidy things up Russ.

    2. I saw Vicky as neither catatonic nor jealous. She seems desperate to me. She’s learned to feel good about herself for (as far as she knows) the first time in her life. She believes that her new found self respect is intrinsically linked to her relationship with a person who, if Marsh is right, never existed in her reality. Without at least one decent relationship she believes she is trash, discarded by a succession of abusive idiots who, despite their obvious shortcomings, were still too good for her. I think the words that best describe her state are “self delusion”.

    3. As long as the real ending is still up for grabs I’d like to put in my bid for a round of spontaneous human combustion, perhaps as a result of screwing with quantum mechanics. Now that’s a twist, and it has the added benefit of clearing up all loose ends simultaneously. Barring that, I’d like to see some sort of resolution of the memory issues. Perhaps something along the lines of “working with Ben leads to a breakthrough that helps Vicky remember she’s not actually a horrible person and gives the all the Strangers in the Mirror some peace of mind,” but spontaneous combustion is still my first choice.

  40. scotts13 says:

    I swore I wouldn’t…. (sigh). The simplest ending I’d find partially satisfying would be if Marsh was offered a choice to “fix” her memories and rejected it. That’s the “Misfile” situation I alluded to before. Honestly, I think that’s what the message from the experimenters is about. It at least gives her the option to decide she likes who she is now, or at least reject erasing the person she’s become. As has been pointed out, regardless of method, Marsh IS now essentially Marshall in Marsha’s body, regardless of minor helpful memory fragments. (S)he might not want to commit suicide.

    But if that’s option A, and singing “I feel pretty, oh, so pretty!” is B – I’d choose C.

    Of course the SHC option has it’s merits, too: “Grant application for additional funds – all my test subjects burst into flame, so some data was not recorded. Further tests are required.”

  41. von says:

    well, if we are proposing alternate endings, here’s mine:

    I would like to see the choice given, as listed above. but, after a series of conversations and the ultimate in morbid introspections, I would like to see Marsh take it. Twists? Two:

    1. the assistant who sneaks him in says he is not at all sure what is going to happen, and offers three choices, without any idea which will happen:
      • a) nothing at all. That is what happened to the group one people. But, after all, very little happened to them in the first place, it would have been difficult for them to know.
      • b) What actually happened the first time was closer to a memory switch, so right now Marsha is living in Marshalls body. Doing it again will reverse that… but the overwrite will send our Marsh, memories intact, back into Marshall’s body… and Marsh 2 back into Marsha’s body.
      • c) Or, if no switch actually occurred, then, worse case scenario, all of our Marsh’s memories would be overwritten by the (totally oblivious) Marshall’s memories.

        Then… nothign happens. But the assistant reminds Marsh, and us, that nothing happened last time… till several days later.

    2. Several days later Marsh wakes up… and the story ends without us knowing what happened.

    There, that’s my submission.

  42. April says:

    Man, you guy’s endings are so much happier and lighthearted than the admittedly brutal ending I had suggested to Russ a month or two ago.

  43. von says:

    SHC is *lighter* than the ending you suggested? It must have been morbid! Fess up!

    Of course, I had my ending planned since the beginning. This is my alternate ending 🙂

  44. April says:

    I didn’t particularly have anything that triggered it, but I had Marshall going crazy by slowly losing his memories of being Marshall and eventually losing finding himself losing time to Marsha’s personality. I think I would have had the researchers intervening as Marsh’s mental illness got worse, at which point there were any number of Faustian bargains that Marsh could have made with them, to get at least some semblance of “his” life back.

  45. von says:

    Ah… OK. A trigger would be good. I have one that I thought up a long, long, time ago. Not the kind of book I write, though.

  46. von says:

    Edited to add: That would have been a very appropriate ending, BTW. It needed some more build up which, based on what you said, you would have given it. Bravo. Morbid, depressing, but, appropriate to the book… or at least a book with similar qualities/plot.

    Now I like light, so my take, my ‘alternate history of TAL’ as it were, is much lighter, more ‘action’ oriented both in the personal life and in the ‘combating evil government forces’ kind of thing. Oh, and the Marsh equivalent gets married to the Chad equivalent 🙂 I like happy endings… so I had a wedding. Well, three weddings so far…

  47. Don says:

    @April: In other words, have Marsh experience something akin to a single-body version of “Shatterday” (by Harlan Ellison).

    There was also a episode of the ’85 remake of “Twilight Zone” that was based on that story.

  48. April says:

    Huh, I’ve never heard of it, but it sounds like a good idea. 😉

    Anyways, as far as the trigger goes, I always thought that Dirk would have been the perfect way to go, since past-Marsha (I guess instead of alternate universe Marsha) had such a strong emotional connection to him. Especially since poor Dirk has been kind of the neglected stepchild of TaL.

  49. BMeph says:

    @von: If you plan on posting you take on the “Warior’s Apprentice” I’d appreciate notice. If you don’t plan on it, I’d appreciate an emailed copy. If you don’t plan on letting anyone see it…too bad! You told us you did something, so it must be Judged. I promise, I’ll be undiplomatic (if called for, anyway). 😉

  50. Jim says:

    There you go Russ. You now have half a dozen or so avid fiction reader’s/writer’s suggestions on how you should end your story. Most readers won’t think it through as thoroughly as we have, so all you have to do now is come up with a workable solution that’s equally satisfying and slightly less obvious than our ideas and you’ll have your ending. Good Luck. (Though I guarantee SHC will be a surprise no matter how often or openly I suggest it)

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