138 A Nibble of Something

Author’s Note: Taxes are done, hurrah! Now Pesach looms, which will likely impact the posting of the remaining chapters, but I’ll do my best.

There was something a bit disturbing about the way Dad was looking at me as we drove to the restaurant. “Is something the matter, Daddy?” I asked.

“No. Nothing at all,” he said, snapping his attention back onto the road.

“You’re disappointed that I turned out not to be a boy, after all,” I guessed.

“What?! No, Princess, not at all. Why would I prefer a boy I don’t know to the little girl I’ve known all her life? I… It’s just that it feels almost as though you… that I don’t really know you any more.”

“I know, right?” I said. “I don’t know myself, either. At least when I thought I was Marshall, I thought I knew who I was supposed to be, and remembered my life. Now? I’m just lucky I have such great roommates. When I introduced you to them today…”

“Well, you really couldn’t be expected to remember that you’d introduced us already.”

“It just makes me seem… feeble-minded. And I don’t even want to think about how many times in the past few months, I’ve done the same. All this time I thought I was being really clever, pretending to really be ‘Marsha,’ when in fact, I was just being stupid.”

He clucked sympathetically, and somehow that comforted me a bit. Clearly, Marsha had – that is, I had always been something of a Daddy’s girl. I wondered if I was embracing that part of myself to compensate for the nagging feeling I still had that I really should be a boy.

We pulled up at the restaurant and Dad let me out while he went to park the car. Even when I thought I was “playing the role” of Marsha, having a guy take care of me this way had felt weird and uncomfortable, but I’d gone along with what seemed to be expected. Now? I decided that I was going to have to change it somehow; the problem is, my Marshall memories told me that I might wind up hurting Dad’s feelings, or Jeremy’s, if I handled it wrong. Oddly, I seemed to care a lot more about hurting people’s feeling that than I remember having done so – of course it had been Marshall, not me, who hadn’t cared as much.

I went inside to wait, out of the cold. The reception area offered a couple of padded benches, so I sat on the one against the window and watched for Dad.

“Marsh?” I turned and saw Brian just standing up in front of the opposite bench. “Are you alone?”

“My father’s parking the car,” I answered.

“Your… father?”

“You said I could bring somebody.”

“Yeah, but… I mean, I just wanted you to not feel afraid of me. Why would you bring your father?”

“It was his idea. Anyway, he’s a lawyer, and–” I stopped because even in the sparse light of the reception area I could see that he had just gone pale.

“A lawyer,” he gasped. “Oh boy…” He sat down heavily.

That’s when Dad came in. I turned and introduced him to Brian, who nodded, his head down.

“What’s wrong with him?” Dad whispered to me.

“He seems to have an issue with lawyers,” I answered in the same tone.

We didn’t get anything more from Brian but small talk until we’d been seated; I had the feeling that he was starting to regret offering this meeting. He looked back and forth between Dad and me and a few times looked as though he was about to say something but thought better of it. He hid behind his menu for bit.

Finally, Dad said, “You know, in my experience, more lawsuits are triggered by lack of communication than by just about anything else.” Brian looked up at that. “When people talk, they can often work out their differences without needing to go to court. I will promise you, that I will not use anything you tell us today as the basis of a lawsuit against you.”

Brian licked his lips nervously and exhaled. “Well, I don’t really have anybody else to talk to about this.” He studied us carefully. “Thing is, Marsh, you really caused us a problem. I don’t know if you’ve actually told anybody yet…?” I nodded. “Well, as you said, it could get back to the administration, and then we’d be in trouble. I assume you’ve told your father the situation?” I nodded again. We’d reviewed it in the car on the way over.

“Well, Rolf – that is, Professor Davis – didn’t want to take any chances, so he called the Dean first. They seem to have come to some sort of agreement; Piques will release funding, but we have to bury these results – everything we’ve done for the past half year, plus most of what we did the previous two. My entire thesis is gone, and I’m going to have to start all over again.”

I winced in sympathy, and tried very hard to suppress the thought, serves you right.

“The problem is,” he continued, “Piques is convinced that if we did publish, if we announced what had happened to our test subjects, that we’d be openly admitting that we’d harmed them and the could sue us, and especially the school for allowing it. Now we did have everybody sign a release, and I think that should be enough, but they don’t want to take the chance.” He looked at Dad. “Sir, don’t you think a release is enough?”

“It would depend on what you disclosed,” Dad informed him. “If you have a copy with you, I could have a contracts expert look it over.”

“You’d have to convince the administration, and they have their own lawyers,” Brian said sadly. “I do have an idea, though. Marsh, maybe if you could persuade the Strangers…”

I looked at Dad, who shrugged, so I asked, “What’s the idea?”

“Well, and you understand that Professor Davis might not go along with this, but… we had a couple of subjects besides Luke come in and tell us that they thought we’d changed them. They weren’t as angry as… well, some people, but they demanded that we change them back, which of course we couldn’t. But Professor Davis thought it might be an interesting psychological experiment, so he contacted a psych prof friend of his from back home.”

“Yes…?” I prompted him when he paused. This was new.

“Well, we put them in touch with Professor Gr– I probably shouldn’t tell you his name – and one of his students started running an experiment with them.”

“Go on,” I urged him.

“So, and I guess this isn’t news to you, but the people we’ve seen so far who reacted this way not only were confused as to who they are, but they had a lot of foreign memories.”

“And we’re missing a lot of our own,” I pointed out.

“Right, so the question is whether the new memories are in addition to the old ones, or in place of the old ones. Kel- er, the student who’s actually doing the experiment, thinks that there’s no way a new memory would overwrite an old one, and that the old ones have to still be there, somewhere – the subject just can’t find them.”

“Which amounts to the same thing, right?”

“Maybe, maybe not. The idea is that maybe it is possible to find these memories, but since the person doesn’t believe that they exist, they can’t find them. I think that was the explanation. So, as long as you believed you were a boy, you had no was to find your own memories, since they weren’t part of what you remembered remembering.”

“Sounds pretty circular,” Dad observed. “Isn’t it the memories that made Marsha think she was Marshall?”

“We’re sort of getting out of my expertise,” Brian admitted. “The point was, they did manage to recover some additional memories, using… I think she said it was trans… derivative search, or something like that. They would try to find a memory that was original and delve into it, and sometimes the person would remember other things that were clearly original. If identity is associated to memory, it should theoretically be possible, if enough memory is recovered, to restore original identity as well. Or maybe it’s something independent. The point is, they were getting results. And then we got the orders to shut everything down.”

“So some other students did know the truth?” I asked, started to get a bit excited.

“Right, and we swore them to secrecy, with the promise that they could continue the experiment – only we’re not allowed to have any contact with them or the professor running the lab.”

“So it’s still going on?”

“I assume so; for all I know, it’s stopped. We’ve had no contact, remember? And no, I’m not going to just give you their names.” He looked as determined as I’d ever seen him.

“You mentioned an idea,” Dad reminded him.

“Right. Well, this experiment might be a solution to your identity problems – you and all of the Strangers. But they can’t publish without explaining our experiment, and we can’t allow that as long as there’s a threat of lawsuits.”

“So you want to be indemnified.”

He looked at Dad. “If that means a promise not to sue anybody over this, yeah, that’s what I mean. I need an agreement, signed by everybody affected, that we won’t get sued. I want it in a form that the college will accept, and I want it to be clear that I can publish without running into problems. There are two degrees riding on this: Kelly’s and mine.”

“So what happens to our foreign memories if we do this?” I asked. “I’d feel kind of strange forgetting things I remember now, even if they’re not really my memories.”

“Marsh, I can’t promise anything,” Brian reminded me. “It’s an experiment. All I know is that they’ve managed to recover some memories. It’s really the best deal you’re likely to get, you know? It’s a chance.”

Dad and I exchanged glances. “We’ll take this under advisement,” Dad told him. “Why don’t we enjoy this delicious food before us and talk of other things. We’ll get back to you.”

We talked of other things during dinner: Brian’s and my non-school interests, how we felt about Piques in general, social lives. But underlying it all for me was the idea that he held the key to my memories. With his help, I might be able to remember my high school performances, my times growing up with Tina, time spent learning with Mom and spent doing whatever a Daddy’s girl does with her father. It all depended on him. But at what price?


  1. Estarlio says:

    If obtained under duress any contract, no matter how it’s phrased, would be voidable.

    The obvious solution is to take this guy somewhere out of the way and apply the crocodile clips to his balls until he tells you what you want to know. Then you can feed him to the piggies.

  2. von says:

    Oh, please.

    This chapter raises some interesting points,and has some exciting bits. I don’t like the ending per se, but Russ was probably in a hurry.

  3. scotts13 says:

    Uh, huh. She went through months of torment, thinking they’d tampered with her body. Turned out it was a completely uncontrolled experiment that simply messed up her mind. So NOW, she’s considering letting an unknown subcontractor of her tormenters SPECIFICALLY fiddle with her memory. But of course they want to be absolved of all blame – in advance – first.

    What a great plan! She should be proud to be a part of it!

  4. gal192 says:

    I like the story. Has anyone thought that the reason why the experiment worked was that in the other reality they were doing the same experiment? If that happened, how would the story be written with Marshall getting Marsha’s memories?

  5. TJ says:

    and the could sue us, and especially the school for allowing it.

    The should be They

    “Well, and you understand that Professor Davis

    “So, and I guess this isn’t news to you,

    It seems like the AND, is not needed.

  6. TJ says:

    I was a little upset about the jump from Nikki brother to the restaurant, i wanted to see more of it, but at least the chapter was interesting to read. It goes to show the shock of what happen kinda wear off of Marsh and she wondering how to feel with these memory still.

  7. von says:

    >>I was a little upset about the jump from Nikki brother to the restaurant, i wanted to see more of it,

    Good catch, TJ. I totally missed that.

    @ Scott. So, the whole ‘no more negative comments’ thing, that lasted how long? 😉

    Come on, we’re talking Marsh here!

  8. Don says:


    That’s kinda what I was thinking, that the only reason why the experiment worked the way it did is that it also happened in the other reality at the exact same time, creating some sort of superposition that allowed the memories to overlap… and there’s a Marshall in the other reality that’s spent the last four months thinking he’s Marsha…

    Anybody want to write that up as a fanfic? 😉

  9. scotts13 says:

    >> @ Scott. So, the whole ‘no more negative comments’ thing, that lasted how long?

    (Hangs head in shame) Uh, I meant to say how much I admired Marsh’s grace and maturity, in sitting down to a pleasant meal and social chitchat with someone who unapologetically derailed her life. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

  10. von says:

    Anybody want to write that up as a fanfic?

    Been there, done that 🙂 Altho I started a lot earlier.

  11. von says:

    @Scott Much better. Now say something nice about Russ and I 😉

  12. TJ says:

    I know you guys like to see a male with female memory, the problem is, must people seem to not like though idea. A male acting female is a lot differnt from a female acting male. It a double standard yea, but unsure if a story like Marshal with Marsha memory be a little odd.

    You guys are right though, Marsh and the rest of the stranger knew about the experiment even though there memory has changed, so it means that they just happen to pick a world where they were also trying it.

  13. gal192 says:

    You have to admit that it would be interesting to read about a male with female memories acting male. I also think that most of the story has already been written. I would not be surprise if the ending was different.

  14. TJ says:

    No, i am not saying i would not be, it just hard to think about.

    When Marsh started having feeling for a guy, I also at first thought it was odd, or almost no thing. I go used to it and even hope there relationship would work, so it more then likely be the same for that kind of story.

  15. BMeph says:

    Wow, an interesting chapter. On the one hand, subtly unsatisfying. With careful prompting from me, my wife said it was “dry as an over-done chicken.” On the other hand, one word completely changed my perspective on some of the still-unanswered (to me) questions I had about minor, but distracting plot points. It made me feel like the fool that I am, and will have me re-reading the story until Wednesday.

    The word, of course, being “Pesach.”

  16. von says:

    OK, now he’s got to be dead, right? I mean, it’s been forever!

  17. TJ says:

    aww give him a break, we had a holiday and taxes and such.

  18. scotts13 says:

    This is a good thing. Russ said he planned to complete the story, then would dole out the remaining chapters in quick succession. I assume delay means re-writes. Either that, or we’re taking a break while Marsha re-evaluates some underwear purchases, now that she’s “really, REALLY, a girl.”

  19. TJ says:

    I though a couple of people said the ending was when Marsh found out she was a girl, that the test change her memory only. That people thought it was a bad ending with to many holes and Russ added all these extra chapter to help with the holes.

  20. Russ says:

    This is a good thing. Russ said he planned to complete the story, then would dole out the remaining chapters in quick succession.

    That was through the “original” ending, which Von talked me out of after I had posted it (and before you guys saw it). I’ve been writing new material, since, thus sadly ruining my “3 updates to the end” plan.

    Pesach has now ended, taxes are done, and I will be back to writing tonight or tomorrow. I hope to have the next chapter up by Friday morning.

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