The Unknown

The Unknown

Professor Nieman unlocked the door to the Chemistry Lab and let Steve and me in. The building was quiet and moderately dark; even though Ollson College has twenty-four hour classes, not every place is busy all the time.

“Okay boys, I left your sample on the front table. With the standard tests you’ve learned, plus a little intuition, you should be able to identify the unknown. It’s not toxic, and you won’t need the fume hood. I’ll be in the office next door catching up on my journals; send me a text when you’re done.”

“Thanks for doing this, Doc. It means a lot.”

“Don’t mention it, Tim. Just keep an eye on Steve.”

I really do appreciate when the professors help us out. I’m a decent student but no superstar, so anything to avoid losing marks is helpful. Steve, on the other hand, is the kind of guy who asks “what’s this” just after opening the bottle; he’s on a first-name basis with most of the infirmary staff. I don’t know how he ended up as my lab partner, but I’m stuck with him.

While I got the equipment ready Steve fetched the bottle. It was one of those little transparent amber plastic ones like you get pills in from the pharmacy, about two-thirds full of some kind of crystalline powder.

“Hey, Tim, you think this is coke?”

“No! Doc wouldn’t give us any illegal stuff to identify. It’s probably sugar or salt, or maybe that stuff in Chinese food that makes you hungry an hour later.”

When I opened the bottle the crystals were red and green and smelled faintly of flowers. Through testing we worked out that it wasn’t acidic or basic, didn’t dissolve in alcohol or water, and burned with little red sparks over the Bunsen burner. If it wasn’t made of crystals I’d have guessed it was sawdust.

“Well Steve, any ideas? I got… what the heck are you doing?”

Steve had wet his finger and dipped it in the bottle. Then he touched the finger with a few crystals to his tongue.

“Steve! Just because it’s not toxic doesn’t mean it’s…”

My jaw dropped. Steve was changing. He’s normally a slightly chunky guy, on the short side with curly black hair that desperately wants to form an afro. Not any more.

It was like somebody had grabbed his body and squished. He got much thinner and about six inches taller; his hair shifted from short and curly to longer and straight – and red. His pallid skin developed a healthy colour and grew freckles. His tee-shirt hung off him like a misplaced tent; it’s a good thing he wears an oversize because his pants and skivvies had fallen to his ankles. And he had breasts.

“Well, that felt weird.”

“Steve, you’re a girl! In fact, you’re Jennifer Nelson!”

“What? No way!” He promptly pulled out the collar of his tee and looked down. “Hey, Jenny’s got nice boobs.”

“Steve! That’s sick!”

“Hey, they’re my boobs.”

“No they aren’t; they’re Jenny’s!”

He grabbed himself between the legs. “Yup, definitely a girl.”

“Okay, something is wrong here. There’s no way this is what Doc wanted us to test. There’s no way this stuff should even exist.”

“You should try this, Tim.”

“No! I am not going to…”

Steve flicked a pinch of the powder in my face. My center of balance shifted and I grew a tiny bit taller. I instinctively grabbed my belt before my pants fell and when I looked down it was no surprise at all to see Jenny’s hands. A quick pat-down confirmed I was female too, and it was no real surprise who I was.

“Thanks, Steve. Now that you’ve screwed both of us over, do you have any idea what this stuff is or how we’re supposed to change back?”

“Change back? I’m going back to my room for some serious self-exploration!”

“That’s gross, Steve! We have a real problem here.”

“Think of it as an opportunity, Tim. If you weren’t a girl now I’d get you to…”

“NO! That’s even more gross!”

Our conversation was interrupted by a low-pitched buzz from the doorway, kind of like a bumblebee crossed with an electric drill. We looked over and Jennifer flew in. Well, she looked like Jennifer, except that she was about nine inches tall and had antennas and little dragonfly wings that were the source of the buzzing. We both just stared.

“Hi boys; I see you found my Jenny dust.”

She flew over to the bottle, took some of the crystals and touched them to her tongue. A moment later there was a third Jennifer Nelson in the room, naked as the day she was born. She said something I didn’t quite hear and a dress coalesced out of thin air to cover her.

“Jennifer, what is this stuff?”

“Oh it’s my make-up kit, does the whole job at once. I picked up the wrong bottle after Trish knocked my purse over in class today. This is your sample; it’s maple sugar.”

“But…”

“Don’t worry; the effect wears off in about twelve hours. Do you want to come back to my dorm room? I’ve got nachos, and you can get your lab written up. Then we can hang out, maybe watch a movie.”

“What about Steve?”

“I think Steve wants some alone time with his new best friends.”

And that’s how I started dating Jennifer Nelson.