I don't think any of us, for a year, considered the possibility of not going back to the Inn.
Ethically, none of us wanted to. I had stolen another man's wife. Lisa had stolen a girl's youth. Zane had inherited some very real problems. And Anthony, we all knew, had some level of guilt for bringing us to the Inn. Whenever I spoke to him all year, he's mentioned feeling like it was his responsibility to get us back safe and sound.
Failure was not an option. And as shocking as it was to see Anthony's post, eventually we accepted that he did what he did for us. I wish he would have discussed it with us beforehand, but we can see his reasons for keeping it a secret.
Zane was the most amused. "I can't believe that bitch didn't tell me!" she laughed. "She knows how pissed off Wes was when I said I'd be taking this trip without him. I would've loved to see the look on his face when he saw me grow my cock back."
"So what do we do?" Lisa asked. "Do we, like... go introduce ourselves to him? Or do we just wait for the transformation to explain everything?" She had a point... for at least a year, this person was going to look like our friend. And yet part of me didn't want to see what he looked like, didn't want to face the reality of what we were doing to his life. Didn't want to humanize him.
Besides, we couldn't have warned him his life was about to be turned upside down. In fact, none of us could have known exactly how badly it was going to be turned upside down.
We didn't have to wonder too long, actually. That was the night it happened. The others can describe you their experiences transforming "back," being "ready" for it as ready as you can be... mind was subtle, like being in a warm bath I guess. My skin started to get irritated, then all of a sudden late that night, I had a bit less hair and a bit more of a gut. That's it.
When I was sure it was happening to me, I rushed next door. I know there's some kind of location aspect of who-becomes-who, but once the process was started, I knew. it would be safe to leave my room.
We had four rooms all lined up. To my left was Lisa's room. Beside that was supposed to be Anthony, and on the other side was Zane. Knowing how "out of it" Zane could get, I figured I should go talk to Lisa right away to discuss how to explain our situation to the new Anthony. So I gathered my thoughts, checked to make sure my own changes were finished (right down to the scar on my elbow from when I was ten!) and went over to Lisa's room and knocked. The door opened a crack. Someone looked out at me.
It wasn't Lisa.
When they saw who I was, they opened the door wide, but stayed behind it. "Get in, quick," the voice said.
I turned to see Zane, standing with his back against the wall, wrapped in bedspread.
"Zane? What are you doing in--"
"It's not Zane," he cut me off. He lowered his eyes to the ground. "It's Lisa."
I stared. I felt faint. Despite all our preparations something had gone wrong. Even though I knew I was back in my own body, I was hurt - disappointed, shocked, annoyed - that this had happened.
Lisa began to pace around, frantically explaining - she had gone to Zane's room for a talk. They'd been spending a lot of time together since the trip began, Zane had opened up to her all about his experience as Clara and they bonded. They ended up talking way into the night and hadn't even realized the transformation must have started when Lisa went back to her room... only to be rudely awakened by growing a, er... Zane-part.
I can't even speak to that.
Lisa, however, handled it as only a minor frustration. As much as this was a failure in our plan, at least we knew what was happening. There was somebody next door who needed our help.
I told Lisa to go see what was up with Zane when she was ready, and meet me at "Anthony's" room. I figured it would be reassuring for Zane to see his own face if he ended up in Lisa's body, and that hopefully this next year would be less traumatic than the last.
I went over to introduce myself to "Anthony." Anth had left us with this unfortunate task of bringing this person into the "Inn" world - explaining what we know about the Inn, including how it's possible to change back. I kept going over the words in my head, trying to figure out the exact right angle to come at it.
I knocked on the door. No answer. "Listen, if you can hear me--" I shouted at the door, "I know something has happened to you in there, and I need to explain it to you. It's not... it's no big deal, please don't freak out..."
The doorknob turned.
And there she was. Lisa.
Or, somebody in Lisa's body. Looking at me with murder in her eyes.
That would be Burt Cobb, the 31-year-old man Anthony had intended to give his body.
Suddenly I completely forgot what I was going to say.