Tori here! I thought I would take a break from updating you on the sordid details of my life to dig into our inbox. Since I set up the new account we've had some correspondences with a few fellow Inn victims, some of whom have agreed to share their stories but don't want to make themselves regular contributors here (not that they wouldn't be welcome.) In fact, our first write-in comes from someone who was at the Inn not long after one of our familiar faces...
Don't forget, if you have an experience you'd like to share with us, please contact us at TradingPostStories@outlook.com! All are welcome!
Dear Trading Post,
I have spent weeks attempting to decide whether this site is legitimate or not, whether I could feel comfortable sharing my story. But reading over the accounts from this summer, the timing and details line up. I can tell that what happened to me was indeed shared by people who are writing at this site. I feel satisfied that we are in, as much as can ever be expeted from the internet, a safe space. But all the same, I will proceed cautiously.
My name, by birth, is Glenn Stevenson. I work in middle management at a delivery company in Illinois. I am 47 years old, balding, with a wiry frame and angular features. At least, that's the image I have of myself in my mind's eye. The story in the mirror is quite different, albeit not as much so as some of those who write here. I would never compare what I have gone through personally with some of the traumas many of you have faced, but the curse did hit those around me quite badly.
I was a visitor to the Inn in late July 2015, just after Tyler and Meg were there according to this blog. I was visiting with my 17-year-old son, Mason (not his real name, but I will use it henceforth) and a friend of mine, Leon, whom I had befriended at a support group for divorced men. Which is to say, he needed a drinking buddy, and glommed onto me. When someone from our group recommended a trip to Maine to clear my head and bond with my son, Leon tagged along.
It was important to me to spend quality time with my son this summer. His mother and I split up when he was very young, and I did not see him very much because they moved often. Then a year ago, she accepted a position working with underprivileged communities in Central America and he wanted to stay in the States, so he moved in with me. Suddenly I was a full-time father again for the first time in nearly a decade - and my son was practically a stranger. It was a very difficult school year for him - he is (or was) quite overweight, shy and introverted, and while I don't necessarily oppose the way his mother raised him, I would like to think I would have helped him learn to get out of his shell if I was around, a valuable skill when you are always the new kid in town. Instead, he seemed behind, a bit immature for his age, smart but not socially comfortable yet.
From the moment we arrived, I struggled getting much interaction with him - he is very enamored of screens and not so much the beach - and neither of us were particularly fond of the rustic, almost haunted stillness of the Inn. Leon seemed unfazed, though, and started drinking as planned as soon as we arrived. It became clear that I had to spend more time attending to my friend than my son, especially when he would leer and make comments at some of the female beachgoers. There was a single woman in our age group, Cathy, in one of the rooms, but Leon dismissed her (a shame since she seemed interested in him and I didn't see him doing any better,) and focussed on younger ladies to the point of almost starting a fistfight at one of the bars in town with some college boys whose girls he was chatting up. I did my best to run interference and not encourage him.
It was a few days in. I had taken to letting Leon sleep in my room so that I could keep an eye on him, and Mason was sleeping in Leon's room a couple of doors down. I woke up at 4 AM to various cries for help and some shuffling in other rooms. I tried to shake Leon awake, to no avail. Sensing something amiss, I immediately rushed to my where my son as sleeping to make sure he was ok.
I knocked on the door and called in, "Mason? It's dad..." I started to turn the knob and softly open the door, in case he was asleep. "Mason? I'm coming in."
"Dad?" answered a decidedly unfamiliar voice. "What's happening?"
I clicked on the light and I did not see my son. I saw a very thin girl with curly brown hair propped up in bed wearing my son's Wolverine tee shirt.
"Who are you? Where's Mason?" I was in some proportion angry and scared, but mostly confused because it wasn't like my son to invite strange girls to sleep in his bed.
Especially when the next words out of her mouth were "I'm Mason. Who are you?"
I was about to say "No you're not," which seemed absurd to have to say, but she seemed shocked at the sound of her own voice. She held out a long strand of hair in her fingertips, pulling its curls straight, which she gaped at in awe and horror, like it was the first time she had ever seen it. I could see a strange wave of understanding come over her face.
She whipped the covers off her legs and examined them, as if for the first time. I wasn't sure what I was looking at at all, but she was wearing my son's boxers, which were way too big for her. She pulled the elastic band away and gaped for a moment at what she found, in further surprise.
"No way, no...!" she gasped. "What? What happened?"
I turned my head away, modestly.
She stood, grabbed the shorts to hold them up, then sat down woozily. She just stared in space.
"Listen, I want an explanation," I demanded. "Where is my son? Where is Mason Stevenson?" Around this moment, when I raised my voice, I started to notice its timbre wasn't quite right. And neither was the hand I was waving at him, which lacked my telltale wristwatch tan and (ahem) hairy knuckles. I got distracted examining it.
"Is it you? Dad?" the girl asked. "Are you Glenn Stevenson?"
"How do you know my name?" I asked with suspicion and irritation.
"I'm your son," she said, looking at me, seemingly on the brink of tears, "I'm Mason. Is this a dream, or did this really happen?"
And so, the day proceeded. It took me a moment to fully process, but seeing the face of one Peter Malinowski in the mirror (so the matching I.D. later informed me,) a rather ruggedly handsome individual with a strong hairline and jaw, if a bit of a paunch that I was starting to become aware of as I moved about more during the day. My concern was for my son - something strange had happened to all of us at the Inn, and as a young man now in the unfamiliar body of a female, he was at the most vulnerable, emotionally. I mustered every bit of parenting I could to get him through that day. And he just sat there, quietly detached, with this blank look on his new face, trying to process it. And I had to pretend like I knew everything would be ok.
I returned to my room and held my breath as I flicked on the light, unsure what I would find: there lay a middle-aged woman sprawled face-down on the side of the bed where Leon had been sleeping. Leon was now Peter's wife, Meredith. And when he woke up, he was not pleased about it.
I tried to break it to him gently, watching over him until he stirred, and asking "Leon, are you awake? I've got some bad, weird news, so brace yourself." He seemed to understand and accept that we had transformed, pretty quickly all things considered, (after a lengthy round of "What the fuck, what the fuck, holy shit, I've got a p*ssy," etc.) He would not stop complaining about it, saying I should be the "chick" and he the "dude." I told him I didn't know how we ended up like we did.
A couple of girls - the real Lauren and Tasha, who had arrived at the Inn under the guise of a young married couple (I had seen them but paid no mind) - took us aside and explained the finer details, after we had picked up most of the broad strokes. While we were conferring, I caught my son fidgeting and examining parts of his body.
"Mase!" I hissed, "Don't touch--- uh, I mean, go someplace private, okay?" He went back to the room, sullen and embarrassed. I wasn't sure what the protocol should be, but I didn't want to give him the impression that his body wasn't his to touch. Still, if I had a daughter, I wouldn't want her fidgeting with her breasts in a crowd of strangers. Leon as doing the same, but I couldn't stop him from doing so. I just wanted him to set more of an example.
"Okay, I'm a chick but do I have to be such an ugly one?" Leon said, examining Meredith's face in the mirror. I wouldn't describe her as ugly, only that she looked her age, which incidentally was still younger than Leon by a bit. She was in her early 40's, with short, light-colored hair, and a few frown lines, bags under her eyes... with a thin waist, but very round hips and thighs, and breasts that Leon described, disturbingly, as "Sag-a-licious."
"Leon, I understand we're all shocked, but could you keep your attitude more appropriate while my son is around? Try to be positive? He doesn't need to dwell on the negatives situation."
Leon scoffed and used some more vulgar language to describe his new appearance. He started drinking quickly.
Tasha and Lauren instructed us that we could probably find some kind of letter or note explaining who the Malinowskis were and what had become of them, and an impassioned plea to safeguard their lives. It seemed the responsible thing to do, if burdensome. But their letter made no mention of a daughter, only a son - Trevor. I had seen a strapping teenage boy around the Inn over the morning but hadn't had time to ask who he was or anything. That turned out to be Cathy, whose appearance inspired jealousy in Leon. She didn't seem too fazed by it either, all things considered.
The note that Trevor had left her was the one that chilled me... because the Malinowski didn't have a daughter. The girl my son now appeared to be was a local girl who snuck away from her parents to spend the night with Trevor. That explained why the baggage we found there wasn't for her, and there was only the barest minimum of personal effects for her stashed away in Trevor's room: one clearly worn set of clothes, and a clutch purse containing a hastily-written note that agreed with Trevor's. It identified her as Brooke Shaner.
I had even seen a posting asking for information on her whereabouts. People were looking for her, and if my son was now her, then taking him across state lines, either to the Malinowski's home in Delaware or mine in Illinois, would be a felony. My heart completely stopped as I realized my only options were to break the law or surrender my son to strangers, leaving him alone and vulnerable and trapped in a strange body that didn't match his mind.
I mulled it over for a bit and concluded Mason was old enough to be involved in the discussions. So at the end of the day I sat him down on the bed. He was a sad sight, shoulders hunched, hair tangled over his girlish face, which was red and streaked by dried tears he clearly didn't want me to see.
"Hey, buddy, listen. We are in a really tough situation right now. You understand, right? What's happened to us?"
"Uh huh," he sighed. "I'm... I turned into a girl."
"Right," I said, "A specific girl. Someone who is missing, someone whose parents are worried right now. And as a parent, I understand what they're going through. And if you walked through their door right now, they would be very happy, very relieved. But if I let that happen, I would feel like I was abandoning you. I have a responsibility to you. And if you don't want to go, I will do my best to protect you and keep you safe."
"I'm so confused," he sniffed, choked up, "You want me to go live with strangers?"
"No I don't want that at all," I insisted, "But like I said, it's a tough choice. And we're going to make it together. I can't get us back to our own lives, our own bodies, but that doesn't mean... I don't think it means we're stuck. Not forever. I'm going to get us out of this."
He froze for a moment, then said quietly, "I don't want to go."
I wrapped my arms around him. He resisted at first - hugs were always kind of an awkward moment between us and now he was in a body that wasn't his and clearly uncomfortable just being touched - but he wrapped his thin arms around me, and I said into his ears "It's going to be okay, I love you, it's going to be okay."
I didn't sleep at all that night. Partly was that after waking up to such a shock, you find it difficult to get comfortable in the Inn. Partly, I was head-to-toe with Leon and had his Meredith-feet in my face (he first demanded I sleep on the floor but I told him that wasn't feasible.) Mostly I was trying to come up with ways to smuggle my son out of the state. Would we go to Illinois first, or Delaware? Would they be looking for her at the airport, or would we have to drive? What if we cut her hair, disguised her with make-up... would we have to hide her in the trunk?
A loud rapping at the door at 6 am. Oh, no, I thought, what now.
My worst fears: a pair of police officers were canvassing the Inn holding a picture of Brooke. "Sorry to wake you sir, but we got a tip that this girl might be at this Inn."
I had to think quick and stammered, "I, um... I think..." I sighed, reluctantly, "Yeah, I think I saw her but I don't know if she's still here."
"But she was here?"
I tried to backpedal "I don't know, there was a girl here but I didn't get a... uh, good look at her."
"Do you mind if we search your room? Just as a precaution."
"I, um... yeah, sure." I gritted my teeth, trying to figure out a way to stall them.
Leon stirred, deeply hung over, "What the fuck, Glenn?"
"These cops are looking for a missing girl... honey," I said, playing husband.
One of them asked, "Your name, sir?"
"P-Peter..." it took me a moment to recall "my" new last name, "Melanski." I got it wrong, but they didn't check. They also didn't ask why my "wife" had called me "Glenn." Leon just laid there, muttering "Fuckin' pigs" under his breath while I tried to hush him.
As soon as they left I scrambled for my phone to text Mason, but I paused... if I warned him, it could be incriminating. If I did anything I could be in trouble. I froze.
I watched them bring my son outside to the Shaner family, who were waiting for their daughter.
I had failed.
When Mason turned to look at me, with a look of fear and confusion on his face, I mouthed, "I tried, I'm so sorry. I love you."
I felt like the worst father, the worst person ever.
I had waited a day to contact the real Malinowskis, currently in Albany, because I didn't know what my plan was going to be. Now it felt like nothing I did mattered, so I agreed to take Leon and Cathy to Delaware. The real Peter is an amenable person, which probably is partly due to currently feeling helplessly trapped in the body of a ten-year-old girl. We started working on plans right away to get everyone back where they belonged, but I could only think of my son.
I worried the whole way about how I was going to contact him, how I was going to rescue him. I didn't have a phone number for Brooke, and he had left his phone in his/Leon's room. But Cathy reminded me that kids today have a huge social media presence, and he would probably still check his own Facebook profile.
I sent him a message from mine: "We are in Delaware. Tell me if you're OK. I still want to help you, to fix this."
It wasn't until the next day that I got a reply: "I'm ok."
I didn't press him for more details, but if I'm being honest, I wanted to shake him until he told me everything he had been through. I had a hard enough time getting two words out of him when things were normal, and now we were separated and there was a chance I'd never see him again. I asked for more details as politely as I could and he just said "Don't really wanna talk about it. Sorry."
I want him to feel like he can come to me, but now there's this huge wedge between us... he's going through something that I can't fully comprehend, and we're so far apart it's like I'm not even his dad. I don't know what to do... but I'm determined to do something.
Anyway, that's my story. So far. Thanks for hearing me out.
-Glenn, "Peter Malinowski" Stevenson
Postscript: I have invited Mr. Stevenson to take part in our blog, and would extend that invitation to any member of his "family." His response was that it took him so long to compose this letter that he didn't see regular contributions as practical, but would consider checking in when he was able to, hopefully when there is good news. Best of luck! -T.