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Winkers

Winkers

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Published by Dave Kuzminski
Raw. Brutal. Shocking. Contains adult language and situations. Dav seeks to return to his home world after stepping through a Winker only to find he's no longer a man and unable to find the return portal. When he does find another Winker, too late he discovers he's on yet another world.
Raw. Brutal. Shocking. Contains adult language and situations. Dav seeks to return to his home world after stepping through a Winker only to find he's no longer a man and unable to find the return portal. When he does find another Winker, too late he discovers he's on yet another world.

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Published by: Dave Kuzminski on Jan 24, 2010
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Sections

The "Winkers" Series

Winkers
Volume 1

Life's a bitch, then you become one.

by David L. Kuzminski Copyright 2010

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Chapter 1 I heard the strange sound seeming to come out of thin air. Had I not possessed any experience with computers, I probably wouldn't have recognized the sound for what it was. Now mind you, I've heard strange sounds before, seemingly out of nowhere, but I had to presume that was simply because I have better hearing than most other people. Occasionally, I might be someplace where I could hear a high-pitched sound that no one else was aware of. However, I wasn't imagining that. A couple of times when that happened, there was someone with me who also heard the same thing, though everyone else around us couldn't hear a damned thing. I think they really thought at the time that we were trying to pull a trick on them. We weren't, of course. That's part of how come I know that I've got good hearing and better than average night vision as well. Spending time in a war zone turned out to be an excellent use of those two faculties of mine. My abilities saved my life once when an enemy soldier tried to sneak up in the dark on my position. I spotted him before he was any closer than fifty feet. The bullet I fired at him, and just barely missed with, put him into a race-winning dash away from my position to safety in the jungle. Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I'm not a looney or making this up. I really did hear computer sounds coming out of thin air. You might say, “well, you've got two computers in the room with you. You must have bumped one of their keyboards.” Sure, I might have, but from ten feet away while they're turned off and not even plugged into the power outlet? Give me a break. Plus, I want you to know that the sound more or less materialized beside me and not from their location. It was as if an opening in space occurred and the sound happened to leak out. It was crystal clear as if I was standing right next to the very source of the sound and not ten feet away. It wasn't a single tone either, but a series of musical chime-like effects with that distinctive timbre that only a computer produces. Well, that gives you just a taste of what I was in for. Mind you, some of what happened was scary to me, despite my being a combat veteran, and some was just downright unbelievable. I mean, just how do you explain to someone that you just came from some other place where your gender was quite different from what you're used to? I mean, who the hell do you relate to? A transvestite? One of those few people who've undergone sex change operations? You tell me. They didn't have anything happen to them that was anywhere near what I experienced. I'll try to remember to keep you informed as to what sex I was when most of these things happened. Just remember that I was born male. That probably colors my reactions and opinions as to what happened to me when

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I found the Winkers. You're probably saying, "Winkers? What are Winkers?" It's just the name I gave the openings in space that I found through which I discovered I could enter other worlds. I've been going through various worlds for a long time now because I haven't found my way back to my own world of beautiful orange skies and purple fields. I've already learned not to criticize anyone else's world for its distinctive colors and patterns. Despite all the obvious differences, we do share a lot of commonality in ideals, purpose, hopes, dreams, fears, and wonderment. Most of us even have the same identical anatomy, thankfully, for I truly like the, uh, human body. My own was just like the one I'm in now, but not the same color. I was more of what you call, uh, aquamarine in skin color. Sometimes, we even have the same levels of technology. That was how come I recognized the computer noise. I couldn't see the opening then because both spaces were experiencing the same time of day. Others don't. That was how come I originally called the openings Winkers. You can sometimes see them wink as if they were blinking lights if you happen to see one while it's night on your world and day on the connected world. Night is about the easiest time you can find one that's big enough to pass through and find yourself in a different world. You can't see them from everywhere. They have a definite facing that permits the light to pour out in one direction only. Some of them are very small. A few are quite large, large enough to lose a ship in. They occur at different altitudes as well. Many of them are in the air where they're almost impossible to reach unless you're fortunate enough to have a large tree nearby or in a world possessing the technology to fly. Even then, you better look before you, uh, leap. Sometimes what's on the other side is similarly placed. You could be jumping from a tree into a large enough Winker to find yourself falling, perhaps far enough to be injured or killed. I've been fortunate, so far, you might say. Well, these are the facts so far as I know them. I could speculate on some other things, such as that I believe that some people carry a small mobile Winker opening inside them, linking them to other personalities from the other Winker worlds. After all, I've seen some of the Winker openings move quite strangely, so I guess it's possible that a really small one could be caught within the electro-magnetic field of the brain. I first thought that the worlds which reached a higher technology first were the ones which created the Winker openings in the first place. Their use of electro-magnetic devices could have forged the first links among the various Winker worlds. Movement of some of those devices then causes the Winker openings to likewise move about or more people would by now know of their existence and where they're located. Of course, that's merely my own uninformed speculation. Others have since told me things which

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indicate that half, if not most, of my initial speculations are totally wrong. Anyway, I don't even have the slightest idea about how or why my body changes when I go from world to world, not that it always does. I only know that most of the worlds only have one sentient and domineering life form among all the life forms present on them. Fewer seem to have two or more, but I have been to some of those. Life is not easy on most of the connected worlds, but a few seem to be like, uh, Gardens of Eden. Everything is almost perfect and no one has to do anything. They don't even have any strife or history of wars. Perhaps humans came from one such world in the first place, in which case one of my speculations is dead wrong. There have been some worlds I went to where there were no sentient beings for me to talk to or seek protection with on the few rare occasions when I desperately needed it. Another thing that most Winker worlds share is a commonality of language, which is one of the reasons causing me to believe that other people have gone before me through the Winker openings. But no one else I've met has been able to fully describe the Winker openings since their ancestors never saw them when they passed through or didn't record their experience to pass on to their descendants. In that regard, I may be the first to actually know what he's going through at the time it's happening. Fortunately, I've studied two other languages besides my native language which you call English. That's been one of the more fortunate abilities I have besides my excellent hearing and night vision. It's enabled me to adapt to most of the Winker worlds without too much of a learning curve. On some worlds, the learning curve is like a straight cliff side. You either pass or you die when you fall off the cliff. Though I said earlier that they have a lot in common, I also found out that their customs aren't always the same. More than once, I had a close call when I found out that I wasn't following their customs. Some people can get quite upset and dangerous when that happens. I'm glad that I usually travel from a Winker that's in night to one lit up by daylight. It gives me the opportunity to look about, even if it is limited to one direction, before I enter. With my excellent hearing, I can usually pick up any sounds of danger to the sides or behind the Winker opening. So far, I'm still alive and kicking, as you say on this world. I dare not repeat that saying the way that it’s used on some other worlds for you. You would call it obscene, which is one of the areas of speech where I have to be careful. I always try to listen to others first, when possible, before I open my mouth to speak. I let them set the cadence for what is acceptable speech and what isn't. I think that's helped me survive some of the Winker worlds. My appearance is often another area where I find I usually have to take quick action in order to blend in with the inhabitants and keep myself from

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injury or death. Not all Winker worlds' inhabitants wear clothes. I've been to a few where it was either forbidden as a tool of the devil, a common enough fear among many peoples, or simply inappropriate or impossible. Some worlds are extremes in themselves, their inhabitants gauging their wealth by how many clothes they can afford or wear at one time. Of course, a poor person on that world is naked or practically so. In fact, wearing less than three layers of clothing on one world is considered naked by their standards. Anyway, I'm getting away from telling you what I've seen or experienced, so maybe I should just tell you about part of my adventures. Then I'll see if I can find the Winker opening that I heard the computer sounds coming from. Perhaps it's an opening large enough for me to fit through leading back to my own world. After all, a guy has to settle down to a really permanent home sometime and being a virgin can become boring after about the sixth or seventh time, don't you think?

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Chapter 2 Well, as I've said, I originated on a world quite similar to your Earth in technology. Considering the passage of time so far in my adventures, I'd say that we're roughly equal. I think you know more about genetics than we do, but we have the edge in outer space technology. We've already established an outpost on our moon. Yes, we have a moon, too. You'd think that our advanced worlds would have scientifically discovered the Winker openings already, but they haven't to my knowledge. Perhaps, with what I'm telling you, you'll be able to convince someone to start looking and establish relations with other worlds. I don't know how that would be done or how the linkage would be kept intact, but it would be worth a try, I think. I was walking across a field when I felt the first cold breath of air on my face and then discovered that I was walking in a very small snow storm. It was all of about ten feet in diameter. Quite amazing, I thought. Of course, you know by now that it was snowing through a Winker opening from another world where there was a much larger snowstorm in progress. It was an unusual Winker opening since most are vertically arranged. That one was horizontal to the surface of the world. Those kinds of Winker openings are very rare, I've discovered. The opening passed high over me and out of sight eventually. I thought, at first, that it was just a freak occurrence of nature. However, I wasn't the only person to observe the snow. It was reported on one of our radio stations by a number of people. At the time, I just considered myself fortunate to experience one of what I thought was one of nature's quirks. I didn't quite make the connection to what it was until sometime later. *** It was two days after that when I was taking out the garbage that I came face to face with what I thought at first as being my first Winker opening. You see, we have garbage in common, you and I. Anyway, I noticed the light in the back yard and almost disregarded it at first until I went to retrieve the second container, uh, garbage can rather. You call them garbage cans, I keep forgetting. When I went to get the second can, I spotted the light again in the back yard. Well, there shouldn't have been anyone skulking about in my back yard at that time of the night. Anyway, I decided to quietly sneak up and see who it was. I didn't want to cause any problems if it was just a neighbor looking for a pet, you know. When I tried to approach from the side, the light disappeared. At first, I thought I'd been spotted and that whoever was there had turned out their light in order to remain hidden. Of course, I'm not foolish enough to go skulking around in the dark when my night vision hadn't kicked back in yet because of exposure to the light. I turned away to resume taking out the

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garbage. That was when I spotted the light again as I glanced over my shoulder. Well, it took me a couple of tries before I realized that the very slow moving light wasn't anyone skulking about at all. I finally had to approach the light head on. When I reached it, I could see inside the Winker opening where there was another world visible to me. I was fascinated, to say the least. I had an amazing discovery all to myself and almost immediately thought of how famous I might become. My only problem was that I needed some proof. Well, I didn't go inside the Winker opening just then. What I did do was experiment with it for a moment. I went to the remaining garbage can and took off the lid. I decided that I could use that as a shield in case the opening produced any sparks or whatever. Then I got a stick that I used for propping up a tree branch so the fruit wouldn't drag on the ground. I poked at the Winker opening with the stick while holding the lid as a makeshift shield. Of course, there weren't any sparks produced by touching the opening. The stick passed through and looked perfectly normal to me on the inside, what there was of it inside the Winker opening, that is. In fact, the only thing dangerous I discovered was that the edges of the Winker opening were hard and probably dangerous to anything which hit them fast and hard enough. More than likely the edges would have permitted anything inside the opening to keep on going while shearing off whatever didn't fit. My first thought then was that the opening was definitely a hazard to anyone running into the edge. It could easily knock them out. Then I thought about what the edge could do to a vehicle or even an aircraft. That would create a sure disaster, I realized. After minutes of playing around, poking the Winker opening with my stick, I suddenly realized it was gradually moving to my neighbor's yard. Soon it wouldn't be my discovery unless I took a chance and got some proof of its existence. I figured if I could go through and come back with a handful of the red grass from the other side and maybe some rocks or other stuff I could see, then I'd be able to stake my claim no matter where the Winker opening went to. I decided to risk a finger on the opening at first. I figured if I just barely touched the opening, much like you might touch a stove quickly to see if it's hot, then I would be able to determine if it was truly safe. I didn't even think at first that I might be stepping into an atmosphere containing poisons which would kill me. Maybe I did subconsciously since there was a slight breeze coming through it carrying the slightest hint of exotic fragrances which I'd never experienced before. I cautiously reached out and just touched the opening and drew my hand back quickly. I didn't suffer any ill effects. Because of that, I tried again. Again, no ill effects. Then I got brave and put my hand in and drew it back. I didn't leave it there but a moment, so I didn't really have time enough to recognize any

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difference or I might not have ever gone through that Winker opening. When I saw that I was okay, I finally got up my courage and stepped through into the Winker world on the other side of the opening. Had I been more observant and not in such a rush to stake my claim, I might have noticed that the two worlds weren't experiencing movement of the Winker opening in the same direction. I reached down and grabbed up a handful of red grass. It was still red, but my hand was no longer aquamarine. I was yellow. I stood there stunned, looking at my hands. The difference in color was the first thing I noticed and which held my attention. I hadn't yet noticed any of the other differences. My hands were smoother, but I was noticing the color, not the smoothness. I don't know how long I stood there looking at my hands before I looked at my ankles to see if they were also yellow. It was as I bent over slightly that I realized two things. I had a tightness to my chest which seemed odd and my chest appeared to be protruding somewhat as I looked down to see my ankles. At that time, I was wearing nothing more than a robe and some, uh, house shoes, I believe you call them. I almost forgot immediately about looking at my ankles and pulled my robe open to stare at the set of female breasts I found on myself. I must have stared at them for about two minutes before it occurred to me to look down farther along my body. Needless to say, when I opened the robe further, I was shocked to see I was no longer male where I should have been. It was gone and in its place was what only felt and looked like a perfect female body. I guess I stared at that part of me for another minute or two. I was really stunned and surprised at my body change in both color and gender. My legs looked more like the graceful legs of a woman and, at the time, I could only guess what the rest of me looked like which I couldn't view without the aid of a mirror. It was moments later when I heard the sound of voices approaching and first realized the possibility of my being in danger. I turned around and walked forward expecting to enter into my back yard within two to three steps, but I didn't. Slowly, I felt all around me and went in the wrong direction searching for the edge of the Winker opening, thinking it was moving in the same direction as on my world. The voices were getting louder, indicating they were getting closer. I fought down my panic and fear, looked around, and ran for the cover of some nearby trees to hide behind. I had no idea who was coming, if they were friendly, or if I was trespassing. I let go of the handful of grass as I ran for the trees, just barely gaining cover before the owners of the voices appeared. I remained hidden and listened. At least, I understood them for the most part as they talked with each other about what should be planted in the field. The crops they mentioned by name were the parts I didn't understand. The crops were of things I'd never heard of before. They hadn't seen me,

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somehow, and continued to walk on by as they pursued their own business affairs. As they walked away from me, I hazarded a look to see what they looked like. I was astonished slightly. They were both yellow-skinned men wearing very little about their bodies. I guess you call it a g-string that they had about their waist and between their legs. On their shoulders and around their torsos, they wore what appeared to be a short shirt which came down to about where my nipples, I then possessed, would have been. The shirt had only two top openings, so one shoulder was bare. I thought them to be wearing boots at the time with the boots reaching up almost to the middle of their thighs. Additionally, they each carried swords in scabbards strapped to their waists by a belt. Seeing those weapons, I imagined they could have been very dangerous, indeed. I watched them from hiding until they were out of sight. Then I went back to searching for the Winker opening. Of course, I was still looking in the wrong direction. I waved my stick in the wrong place as I attempted to find it. For some strange reason, I hadn't thought to bring along the lid to the garbage can because I needed one hand empty to grab the evidence. I wished I had at that moment. It would have been a very good shield had those men spotted and attacked me. *** As the day wore on, I searched and searched. Truthfully, I was demoralized as the sun began to go down on that world. It wasn't until I realized that with the darkness that I might be able to see the light from my world that I regained any hope of returning home. However, I was too far away from where the Winker opening was by then. I certainly wasn't at the right angle to see it if I did look in the right direction during my searching. I don't know what time it was when I finally gave up my search and got some rest. Certainly, I'd been awake for over a day and I was tired. Consequently, I managed to find a secluded and safe looking place to lie down and sleep, not even thinking about the possibility of wild animals which I wouldn't know how to deal with if they were any different from those in my world. I only awoke when it was already late in the next morning and the sun was in my eyes. It was then that I realized that I was on my own and that I needed to begin thinking in terms of survival. Well, I did, of course, have a stick, not that it was of much use against a sword. Still, it could be used, I suppose, to ward off some of the wildlife that might bother me. I didn't feel completely unarmed. I also had my robe and my house shoes. There wasn't anything in the pockets of the robe for me to use. I'd left my lighter and cigarettes, thank goodness your world has those, in my home. I wore no rings, so I really didn't have anything to barter with.

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Still, I wasn't near a town that I knew of, so it was more a matter of foraging rather than bartering. There was no other way for me to find out if something was safe than to try it. I began using my mind, one of the few things I didn't leave home without, to make my plan of action and survival. About the only thing I didn't think of at the time was to use my body for bartering if I could find a town. I was still thinking in male terms. It was me against the world and the odds makers weren't taking enough action on me to make it a worthwhile bet. The field didn't show any promise of delivering any food to me, so I kept to the woods, doing my best to mark my trail so I could return later to search again for the Winker opening. At first, nearly everything and nothing looked appetizing or nourishing to me. Everything was different in color, texture, or shape. Mind you, it wasn't all that extreme in most of the differences, but just enough to make me overly cautious whenever I spotted something. I probably searched around for a few hours before my hunger drove me to try something. Even then, I managed to take just a small taste to see if it was likely to kill me. Then I took a second taste to see if I even liked it. I was hungry, but not yet starving, so I could afford to be a little picky. Somehow, that morning or noon, which it was closer to being, I did find enough to eat for my hunger to be satisfied. I made it a point to remember what I ate so that I could search for the same things again. It wasn't the most elegant of solutions, I'll admit. It was more of a caveman, er, woman solution that I used. Needless to say, it worked for me on that world and a few others that I later traveled to. *** It was a few days later when I got sloppy about keeping myself hidden when I was spotted by some children. They spotted me first and gathered around to stare at me as much as I stared at them. The boys were dressed much like the men I'd seen before, except they carried no swords. The girls were something different entirely in their manner of dress and they were armed to the teeth. They appeared to almost be warriors to me. They wore a leather-like material which formed a skirt around their hips. Another piece of the same material, only much thicker, formed a breastplate and was held in place by a strap which went around their necks and a second strap which went around their backs. Each girl wore what were definitely boots made of the same material. The boys, I then noticed, wore what was only a type of cloth that went up their legs from their footwear. Each girl carried one or more knives or daggers, attached to her waist and her boots by sheathes built in to the material. They were whispering to themselves at first, so I had no idea of what they were saying. Then they were beside me and one girl looked up and me, said, "Woman, what age are you?"

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If nothing else, it was confirmation from them that they, too, saw me as being female. It wasn't just my imagination. I looked at them and she repeated her demand, asking when I was born. Her right hand was on the hilt of her knife, so I decided then to answer her. After all, child or not, she was armed. "Three-five, nineteen forty-seven," I replied, still surprised at how different even my voice sounded. Her eyes grew wide for a moment. Then I noted that those of the other children were similarly open. That was just before they suddenly ran away from me as if I was the evil witch standing before them in my black robe. That was about the only comparison I could make. Again, you might notice that my world has some similar literary characters. I mean, we both have old stories containing evil witches, which is only more evidence for my theory that people have gone among the worlds before without knowing it. I hoped that was the last contact that I might have with the people of that world since they were mostly armed and dangerous in appearance to me. Not that I was afraid of them since I was a combat veteran. However, I didn't think that I could take on more than one of them at a time and they almost always were in groups whenever I saw them. *** Several hours later, I heard voices, again, coming in my direction. I looked around to find a place to hide, but there wasn't any. I could try to outrun them, but my house shoes didn't fit too well anymore. My feet were even more female-like than before. Now, they slopped around in my shoes so that I either walked slowly or went barefoot. My feet weren't hardened to being bare, so running barefoot appeared out of the question. My walking speed was nothing to be proud of, either. They were catching up with me, regardless. When they finally spotted me, they then began running towards me at a speed which I knew I couldn't outrun them at. Rather than wind myself, I stopped, hoping that if it came to a fight, I would be able to acquit myself honorably. The people gathered around me, staring at me as if I was somehow different. Of course, I was, but I hardly expected them to believe that I was once a man. Come to think of it, maybe this is how some of those stories of evil witches started in the first place. Maybe those stories are the twisted accounts of people who went through the Winker openings before. They were silent as they gazed at me. I was silent, too. Of course, I was keeping my big mouth shut. I didn't know what their intentions were towards me and I wasn't going to make it any worse if I could avoid doing so. A woman, wearing much the same style of wear as the young girls, only she had a sword dangling from one hip, approached much closer and looked at me. She walked around me and came to a stop once she was in

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front of me. She was quite gorgeous and, if I were a man, I could have easily fallen in love with her. However, I was smart enough to realize that I didn't need to let my male feelings get in the way or my throat cut. She continued to look and said, "When were you born?" I saw no gain in not answering, so I answered in what sounded to me like a sexy and sultry voice, "Three-five, nineteen forty-seven." As with the children, her eyes grew wide and she looked at me more intently. Then before I could react, she reached out, grabbed the lapels of my robe and pulled outward before pulling it down and letting it drop to my ankles. Again, she walked around me, staring at my now naked body before she came to a halt in front of me. "Forgive me, your majesty!" she cried, as she sank to her knees and stared at the ground. "Kneel!" she shouted from her new position to the people gathered around. "Swear homage or death!" From the people gathered around, I suddenly heard their voices swearing to defend me to their dying breath. Not one dared to look at me any further. All their heads were bowed and their eyes looked at the ground. I was confused. All this because I was born three and a half months into the year of nineteen forty-seven on my world? Evidently, whatever I said was great to their ears. I wasn't going to argue with my new found position. I didn't know what I was king, I mean, queen of, but it certainly had to be a lot better than foraging around for.... Well, you don't really want to know what my diet was up to that point. You've got some fairly similar things here on Earth and both disgust me as far as normal meals go. Of course, until that moment, I was barely surviving. I wasn't sure what I should do or say. I wasn't even used to being a woman, either. It almost didn't occur to me to be modest and pick up my robe to cover myself. In fact, I wasn't sure if I should. I mean, that one woman had to walk around me and stare at my entire body before she decided that I was actually the queen. Was I supposed to be naked? I mean, it really didn't matter to me as much as whether they were trying to harm me or not. Part of that problem was taken care of for me when some of the people finished with their oath, one of the women stripped her own body and offered her clothing to be placed upon my own body. Within a few moments, I was decked out like an Amazon warrior, whatever one of them really looks like. Apparently, the woman who gave up her outfit gained some esteem or rank among the others for her sudden gesture of making sure that the queen, myself, was properly clothed and armed. I had her weapons still sheathed in the skirt and boots she gave up. She smiled and seemed pleased with the remarks others were giving her. I only hoped that she didn't suffer later if it was discovered that I wasn't really the queen.

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Let's face it, you and I know that the charade couldn't be expected to last forever. I certainly didn't expect it to at that time. I still wanted to find the Winker opening back to my own world. The only thing is that I didn't know where it went to nor did I know what these people expected me to do as their queen. Anyway, the boots fit a whole lot better than my house shoes did by then. My feet were quite petite when I was given the boots. I was very shapely and soon got a chance to see my reflection in something other than dirty water. Had I met myself as a man, I would have been quite inclined to ask for a date. Mind you, I wasn't full of myself or whatever you call it, but I almost fit my own ideals of what a beautiful woman should look like. The people, mostly the women, escorted me, not by force mind you, to their village. It was little more than a collection of animal skin tents placed in a seemingly random arrangement in a large clearing near a lake. Someone, I believe one of the boys, gathered my shoes and robe to take with us. I was shown to the largest tent and escorted inside. It was opulent by their standards. Food and drink were brought to me while I was given a place to sit down. Seeing the lake reminded me of how grungy I felt. I hadn't taken a bath or shower in days. Let's face it. You try living in the forest for a few days and tell me that you don't feel grungy by then. For the moment, I gorged myself, learning as I finally achieved true victory over my hunger that I was still developing. I scarcely noticed their momentary horror at my eating behavior then. My hair was still growing and began to reach my shoulders. My chest was pressing tightly against the thick leather plate I was wearing. Any muscle I had was almost gone to curves which look luscious on a woman, but not so good on a man. I still thought of myself as a man and didn't like losing my muscles anymore than losing another favorite part of my anatomy. Okay, I'll be blunt about it. I missed having a penis so that I could stand to relieve myself instead of squatting. I also missed the other things I could do with it. As desirable as some of the unwashed women appeared to me, there was nothing I could do about it. Not too long after I finished eating, I realized that I simply had to take a bath now that there was plenty of water for having one with other than the thin dirty trickle of water I found before to quench my thirst with. I stood up and walked out of the tent. Instantly, I was followed by several older women and young boys. They made no move to restrict my movements, but rather seemed more concerned about protecting me from any danger or serving me with whatever I desired. Unfortunately, they couldn't just serve up a Winker opening. Amazingly, one boy brought along my stick which I hadn't thrown away yet. Evidently, if it belonged to me, they were going to carry it wherever I went. I guess if I had to be a queen, then this was definitely the

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way to do it. Sure, I understand that on Earth you have two meanings for a queen, but I was definitely a man trapped inside a female body and not a female trapped inside a man's body. I was more like the actual royalty you still have in some of the countries of your Earth, something else my own world is ahead of you in. My world is unified as one glorious nation, achieved much the same way as some of your larger nations were, by bloodshed and victory. It was a close call, too. We fought a war against a power much like your Hitler. Just as you did, we succeeded. The conclusion of the war left us with over half our world leaderless. We took the opportunity then to unify the world instead of leaving it as a fragmented collection of small nations. I guess that's how we got on our moon so quickly. We no longer had to waste resources defending ourselves against ourselves. I left the tent and walked towards the lake. My entourage followed on my flanks and behind me. They were very observant of where I went, making sure that they didn't get in front of me. I walked past the woman whose clothing I now wore. She was still quite naked and busy making a new set of clothing. I guess I frightened my entourage when I got to the lake and stopped. "Hand me my stick," I said. The boy came running up to me and presented my stick to me while kneeling and looking down. I took it and then leaned out slightly over the edge of the lake. I was going to prod at the water to see if it was really as clear as it appeared. That's when two of the women suddenly grabbed me by my arms and held me as if to keep me from falling in. I looked back at each of them and there was fear in their eyes. However, they didn't appear to be afraid of me. I smiled at them and the fear didn't leave their faces. I looked back at the water and finished prodding at the lake bed to see if the water was really as deep as I thought. It was. I backed up from the water and the two women released me, moving quickly back to their stations. Finally, they didn't appear afraid. Well, they didn't appear afraid for a moment or two until I did something they didn't expect. Grabbing the thong which secured the skirt around my hips, I untied it and let it drop to the ground. There was a gasp for a moment before they instantly dropped their eyes. I continued to untie the thongs holding the breast plate in place before turning my attention to the boots as the plate hit the ground. I had to sit on my bare ass to get the boots off by myself. I guess I could have ordered one of them to undress me, but I wasn't used to giving them commands yet as their queen. Telling the boy to hand me my stick was about the extent of my order giving thus far. I was finally naked and stepped out into the water. That was when what you call hell broke loose. The women in my entourage began to scream

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to hell that I needed to be saved. People came running from all over the camp to the edge of the lake while I was walking into the water. I guess I only got about four steps before I stopped because of their sudden screams. For once, I think I started to really understand what they were afraid of. They were afraid of the water, not me. Several of them hollered, gently of course, for me to reach out to them and they would pull me to safety. Other women came running with ropes to toss to me if I couldn't reach them. I even heard one of them tell the others to throw a man between us for me to walk on to safety. At least, I think that was what one said. For a moment there, I thought that men didn't seem to be worth very much on their world which is about how I've seen it on a few others as well. I turned to them and said, "I'm fine," in what sounded even more than before like a beautiful woman's voice, matching the image I saw just before I disturbed the lake water only moments before. "I'm just going to clean myself by taking a bath." Some of the older women among the group paid attention to me and began telling the others to quiet down. Then one of them turned to me and asked, "A bath? What is a bath?" It was about then that I realized that I couldn't smell how bad any of them smelled because of my own body odor and the smell of the leather clothes. It was then that I realized they had no idea of cleanliness or hygiene to prevent disease, let alone cut down on body odor. It was time for their first lesson. Mine would be occurring constantly as I continually struggled to survive. "How small is the smallest animal?" I asked. I held my hands apart and moved them closer together until they were almost touching. That was when I finally got answers from them. I shook my head and said, "The smallest animal is so tiny that you can not see it. Pick up the smallest grain of sand from the ground that you can see and look at it." Everyone instantly did as I said. "That is a mountain to the smallest animals alive. Everyday you go without taking a bath, these smallest animals are collected on your skin just by walking around without you doing anything." Now, most of the people began looking at their hands and arms. They were trying to see the smallest animals. "Most of those smallest animals will not harm you. Some are hunting the other smallest animals just to protect you, but there are not enough of them. Water will not harm the good hunters, but it will clean all the smallest animals from your skin for a while. It will even kill some of the smallest harmful animals. From now on, all should take a bath every day to get rid of the smallest harmful animals. To do that, you should do as I am going to do." Well, then I just went ahead and took my bath. Scrubbing at my

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armpits with a handful of water and rinsing out my shoulder length hair. Mostly I just rinsed since I had no idea about how to make soap. I figured that if they took my advice, they'd probably live a lot longer than their contemporaries. It might take a few generations for the knowledge to spread around the world of theirs, but I would have contributed some good to it. Fortunately for my people, I was only standing in water that was up to my knees. That wasn't too bad since many of them had at least stepped in water, but not stayed in it for longer than necessary. That was usually about the length of time it took for them to step out or be helped out. As much as I wanted to walk out farther and swim, I knew that none of them could swim if they were as fearful of the water as I correctly guessed. It was only by making it an order that I got them to stand in water and splash it over themselves after telling them to undress first. The moment that I stepped out of the water onto the shore, there was a quick mass exodus from the water by my people. They wanted as little to do with it as possible. It was basically good for drinking and that had been it. They never knew that it could be used to take baths. I started to dress myself, but willing hands did the job for me before they even thought about putting their own clothing back on. I behaved myself by not walking anywhere at that moment, giving them time to dress themselves first. *** It was that night when I got my first lesson from the people about what they expected out of me as queen. At first, I thought that we were being attacked, but it only turned out to be some of the men fighting among themselves. I didn't know what they were fighting over or why. I should have asked. However, they didn't appear to be trying to kill each other and the other women were ignoring it for the most part. I figured that it wasn't worrying them, it shouldn't worry me. No one seemed concerned when I didn't try to stop them from fighting by commanding them to stop. I gathered from that behavior that it was some kind of custom they were engaged in. I really wanted to get some rest so that I could resume my search for the Winker opening the next day and night. Perhaps by then I could explain to my people what I wanted them to help find for me. The truth of the matter is that I was still tired and regaining my strength from my few days of survival in the forest. I didn't know I was causing some of their very behavior in the first place. Everyone seemed relieved when I pulled my head back inside the tent and went back to lie down. I really couldn't get to sleep with all that racket going on, but eventually it quieted down outside just as I started to doze off. I suddenly felt myself being grabbed and my skirt being forced up. Being a combat veteran, I wasn't going to let anyone sneak up on me for any

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reason. I went into action, despite being tired and having less muscle than before. Besides, some of what I knew about combat didn't require much muscle to use against an opponent. Being overly knowledgeable about the male anatomy, I was able to quickly subdue my male attacker whom I first thought to be a homosexual. You know, the other kind of queen? I forgot for just a moment that I was female when he went for what wasn't between my legs. I subdued him and dragged him out of my tent. The women looked horrified at the sight of the man I was dragging, holding himself where I hurt him. Like I said, for that one moment I thought he was homosexual, so I hit him where it hurt so that, well, you know.... However, by the time I got outside, I realized the correct term for what he was intending to do was rape. Several members of my entourage came over to see what was wrong. "He does not please you, your majesty?" one woman asked, with her eyes averted. "He tried to rape me!" I replied. "Rape? What is rape?" she asked. I was stunned. She was a natural born woman and didn't know what rape was? Something told me right then in my mind that I might have reacted wrongly. Hell, might wasn't even close! Face it, I did react wrongly. "He won the right to take you tonight. You are displeased with him? You want him slain?" another female warrior asked, her hand ready to draw her sword. I realized then I was to bear children as part of my queenly responsibilities. I would find out the next day that their queen had no husband of her own. The husbands of all the other women would fight each night for the right to a night with the queen. I'd find out quite a bit more about being queen. Right then, of course, I didn't want to start slaughtering my subjects, since I didn't know all the facts yet. "No, do not slay him. I just don't want a man tonight. I have a headache." With that said, I went back inside and went to bed, unaware that my subjects would be staying up all night praying for my speedy recovery. *** I awoke to the aroma of food. Despite having conquered hunger by sheer good fortune, namely being declared queen, I was hungry again. Hungrier than usual. I would learn that extreme hunger was part of the price for going through a Winker. When I got up, I felt top heavy. Glancing down, I could see why. My breasts were even more ample than before. I'll admit, it took me a while to get used to them being crushed under that thick leather plate. I wondered how any of the other women in the camp managed to stand up to punishing

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themselves in that way. I hoped that I could do something about that later in the day. Perhaps one of the women would make an alteration for me since I didn't possess the tools to do so. I managed to steady myself, grateful that the women of the tribe didn't wear any of the footwear such as existed on my world or even of the Earth I'm now on. Both our worlds certainly seem to have both gone crazy in that endeavor. I went outside the tent to find a sumptuous feast displayed in front of my tent. From the looks on some of my subjects' faces, they were waiting patiently for me to get up before eating. I started to pick up a morsel from one of the dishes, repeating my behavior from the night before. Before I could get it, one of the boys grabbed it, took a small bite, swallowed it, and then passed the majority of it to me. My fingers never touched the food once during that meal. He or another boy on my other side, so one would always be close, was quick to grab everything, test it, and then feed me. At least, the boy who tested my drink only tried it once. My drink was virtually the only item I was allowed to handle. My world never had such customs. Your Earth did and now I understand the nature of their behavior even more. Then I was only told, when I asked later, that it was to make certain the food was safe. After the meal, I got to do at least one thing for myself. No one tried to take care of relieving me for me. My entourage stood nearby, but didn't interfere, thankfully. I guess I was beginning to realize what privacy means to some people. It wasn't because I was then a woman, but because I felt that relieving oneself was a private affair. I walked around the camp some that morning, asking questions about things I saw. I soon found out I was to officiate later in the day when a boy became a man. One of the women brought me a sword to give him as part of his ceremony. I wasn't aware of everything that would soon happen. I asked what I had to do. The women told me that I simply awarded him his sword at the proper time. He would take care of doing what had to be done. When he finished, then I was to say he was a man. It seemed simple enough. Learning of this was how I learned why I was queen. I was the oldest person they knew. I wasn't merely queen of the tribe. Already, word of my age was being passed along to other tribes. I was their queen as well. The funny thing about it is that I wasn't the oldest. I simply told them when I was born in the manner in which my world told time. They thought I meant how many hours old I was. To my mind, the terrible thing about that is that it meant those men fighting for a night with me were basically fighting to sleep with the old hag. Except I was actually quite a beautiful old hag, everything considered. The boy going into manhood was rapidly reaching one hundred thousand hours in age. I guess that would be somewhere around age eleven

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or twelve on Earth. At that precise moment, I would be cued by the official time keeper and hand the sword to the boy. *** I was told sometime later that day that the time was approaching. It seemed rather obvious to me, too. After all, just about everyone was moving to the center of the camp near my tent. My escorts made sure I knew and reminded me that I must be on time. So much for modern people being the only ones to have their lives run by clocks. The woman with the sword I would award was in her place. She seemed relieved when I showed up with minutes to spare. I took my place and everyone adjusted their positions to where I was standing instead of one of them asking me to move. She handed me the sword and I waited for only about a minute. Then the official time keeper signaled me. The boy came forward, completely naked to my surprise. I held out the sword, not knowing that how I held it out would give him information. It's a damn good thing for him that I didn't hand it out point first. He would have taken his own life for me right then and there. When he took the sword in his left hand, he reached down and grabbed hold of himself. Before I realized what he was about to do, he had cut off his left testicle and was handing it to me. He never uttered a single word in regards to the pain he must have felt. I know that I cringed when I realized what was happening. After all, I was once a male before then. I certainly valued my testicles as something near and dear to me. It took me a moment to remember to say, "You are a man." Once I said that, one of the women then whispered from behind me that the maidens were ready to catch the prize. "What prize?" I asked. "His testicle. Throw it into the middle of the group of maidens. She who catches it will be his wife," my advisor replied. I looked around and spotted the group of maidens. They were some of the same young girls I'd seen before when I was first spotted. Of course, there were more of them gathered than that few I'd seen before. Little did I know that there would be bloodshed over catching it when I threw the testicle into their midst. I tossed it up high almost directly into the center of the group of maidens. Once it was in the air, the girls soon showed just how bloodthirsty they truly were. Some were shoving and others were drawing their knives to slash out at the others around them in order to be the one who caught the prize. One girl was actually killed. Several were wounded. Only one girl emerged with the prize which she held up for a few moments like a trophy. Then she ate it! If I was a man then, I would have been cringing even more. I learned, by asking afterwards, that her act of eating his testicle was a

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warning to him not to fool around or she'd take the other one as well. As well as becoming a man, he was married right then and there to the woman who caught his testicle. He also became eligible to participate in the daily fights to bed the queen who would never marry. Lucky me! For him and the other men, I wasn't fooling around in the eyes of the wives. I was their boss and each man was essentially his wife's messenger who, if successful at winning a night in bed with me, would increase her status in the camp. Anyway, I learned then that the men only fought with each other for the privilege of a night in bed with the queen and to defend themselves against wild animals. Real fighting required real women! That much I had already seen. By then, I had noticed the camp was easily four-fifths women. Evidently, the births were unbalanced on the world as to gender. I could understand then the importance of a woman not wanting her man to fool around with some other woman after she fought for him. There was a lot of temptation around him in the form of an excess of women. If she hadn't thought well of him in the first place, she wouldn't have tried very hard to catch his testicle. By the way, the queen couldn't be risked in such fights for a man, so that was why I was unmarried and would get the best man available for the night by virtue of non-lethal combat to weed out the weaklings. I wouldn't have to worry about the newly designated man being in my bed for a long time to come. He was too small to win such a contest. Anyway, the woman or bride then consummated her marriage in full public view so that she could put the other women on notice that he was hers. It would be the only time that she would do so publicly unless something happened to him and she decided to remarry. If she made that decision, she would have to compete with other unmarried women as well for the hand and testicle of a newly designated man. I didn't find out how a widower was married off again, if such an event was possible. Obviously, he couldn't give away another testicle in a marriage rite. If nothing else, that was counter-productive. I can only guess that it was a rare occasion, if it happened at all, for a man on that world to outlive his wife. Usually, if a woman wasn't married by the time she was one and a half times the age of a man, she usually just wandered off to another tribe to try her luck there at winning a husband. Very many stayed unmarried. Eventually, they could live long enough to be designated queen. I guess that's kind of a consolation prize of sorts. At least, if she was looking to get laid, then she could simply live long enough to earn the right. I guess their system had its merits. After all, the strongest women got married early and those who lived longest had a second chance. That did seem to favor them genetically since each new generation was stronger or

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longer lived. Sometimes, even both. *** When I retired to my tent that evening after taking what would be a daily bath, the combat among the men began again. I was still tired, probably because my body was still converting much of what I ate into making me as female as possible. Why? I don't know. I was asleep when I suddenly woke up. It took me only a moment to realize that the pain which woke me was from losing my virginity. I was being made love to by the victor of that night's non-lethal combat. I really had no choice but to accept the system and wonder if I could get pregnant, not that I wanted to. After all, I couldn't just shut down a tribal custom which had been going on for who knew how long. Besides, I wasn't sure what might happen to me if I continued to resist as I had the first night with the tribe. Then the whole tribe might have turned against me with dire results for my hide. *** It took about two more days for my body to stop its complete development. By then, my hair fell almost to the middle of my back, giving it some cover. My hands were more sleek looking. The last of my manly musculature was gone. I looked very beautiful to be truthful. I'd also been taken several more times, thankfully only once each night. I mean, try to imagine me, a man trapped inside a woman's body, looking up at another man on me with his penis stuck in my new vagina. I knew how a man would like a woman to respond to him, but I didn't dare. I guess I should tell you that I just laid there like a cold log while it went on. So much for having and using knowledge. By the end of my female development, I was no longer so tired. I went out after being taken that last night for the first time since joining the tribe to look for the Winker opening, much to the chagrin of my escorts. They had no idea of what I was up to as I wandered about the clearing where I first arrived for several hours waving my stick around and looking for something they couldn't see. I tried to explain to them what I was looking for and to get them to search for it as well, but they were evidently my protectors. They refused to leave their stations near me. I only searched for a few hours before finally returning to the camp where I retired for the night. I'm certain my escorts were happy I was finally going to get some rest. By that time, men were arriving from other tribal villages. They were the champions of their villages and would challenge the men already vying for a night with me. It seemed like another way for my tribe to become stronger. As some of them arrived, a few of the families in my tribe moved out. Soon, there were no weaklings, mostly due to their immaturity in body growth, living within the camp. When some of those boy-men matured into

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full adult bodies, then they would soon return to wherever the queen was at if they succeeded in being champion of their village. To me, it seemed like a perfect way to get the best of the race together for the purpose of breeding an even better generation. Of course, I didn't want to be the mother of my country. I wanted to get back home, become a man again, I hoped, and try to live out a normal life. *** It was close to a month later when the first Winker opening was spotted by me on one of my nightly searches after being taken. I was finally able to make my escorts aware of what I was searching for. I didn't tell them why, however. Had they known, they might have restrained me since I was their queen. The only bad thing about the first Winker opening was that it was much too small. It did look out onto my home world, giving me a taste of homesickness. With their increased knowledge of what I was looking for, I was able to convince my people that I wanted to find another larger Winker opening. I felt like a prostitute for what I did next. I put out the word that I would honor the next man to find me a larger Winker opening with my body for two nights. I hoped that I wasn't violating any tribal customs. It didn't appear so by the next night. As soon as I was finished with the man in my bed, I went outside, was joined by my escort who expected me to go searching, and left to begin my search. Nearly every married man, regardless of his fighting ability, was also up and about, ready to search for a Winker opening with me. As I went to the field where the opening I sought was last at, I told them that it could be anywhere, so they were free to search all around the tribal territory. Of course, my escorts, with their better command of the native language, were able to explain what they were looking for much better than I. It wasn't so much that we couldn't understand each other, but there were enough words which were different that I was glad that they had now seen a Winker opening so they could explain it to the men. Yes, I'll admit that I really had no intention of honoring my pledge of two nights with one man. Actually, I hoped to step through the Winker opening before I could be stopped and run like hell. If I changed back to a man, as I hoped I would, they probably wouldn't want to take me back with them. Pretty clever, huh? Well, one of the men did find such an opening, but it was too high up for me to reach even with assistance. I had to put out to him after all for two nights. *** It was a week later that my chance came. One of the men found another Winker opening and came to show me where it was. It was just barely large enough and I slipped through it immediately, thinking that it led

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back to my world.

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Chapter 3 Almost immediately, I felt my body going through changes as I stepped to the side of the Winker opening so I wasn't visible to the tribal members on the other side. If they couldn't see me change, they might go running in the wrong direction if any of them came through after me. I didn't even think then about the possibility that their bodies would likely go through similar changes as well. Had I thought of that then, I might not have worried about them seeing me once they followed. More than likely, they'd be as stunned as I was on the first time I went through a Winker. Then they'd be too confused to worry about finding me. Anyway, for some unknown reason, they didn't follow me. I was alone on a new world I suddenly realized. The grass wasn't purple. It was blue. The sky was blue. My skin was blue. I was horrified to discover that I wasn't on my world. I began searching for the Winker to return to the world I at least knew something about. Incredibly, the Winker opening was sinking into the ground and I couldn't return. What was left of the opening was too small for me to return through. I was trapped on the new world. About the only good thing was that I was armed with several fairly well-made metal knives and had some good protection in the leather skirt and breast plate I wore. I wondered how I appeared now. To tell the truth, I lifted up my skirt first to see if I was a man again. I was disappointed. I was still a woman. I consoled myself with the knowledge that it took close to a full week for my previous change to take place fully. Perhaps the missing items would return within a week. My breasts were smaller, but they were still present and no longer being crushed as badly by the breast plate I wore. My hair seemed to have shortened as well while changing from blond to black. It no longer touched the small of my back. It was more to the level of my shoulder blades in its length. Other than that, my clothing still fit and I still had my stick. As before, I wandered about getting my bearings while looking for food and water. It was at that time I decided to turn my stick into a short spear using one of the knives. I still felt uncomfortable with the breast plate pressing against my chest, so I used the thong which tied it around my back to attach one knife to my stick. Then the breast plate was loose and flopped against me, relieving the pinching and letting me breathe a little easier. It wasn't much of an improvement. The flopping of the thick plate was driving me crazy so I eventually slipped it around to cover my back, exposing my breasts to the daylight. Using my previous method of testing food, I found enough things to eat that day so that I wasn't starving. I was still hungry and somehow made the equation that I would be until the changeover was complete. In fact, it

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occurred to me then that I could speed up the changeover if I continued to eat. Possibly then I might find myself becoming a man again. The geography or topography of the new world was as dissimilar to the world I left as it was to my own world. Locations of lakes and rivers weren't the same. Being lost in a new world meant that I had to locate all my resources again. *** After a week, I was still female and no longer hungry as I had been. I realized then that I was destined to remain a woman on the new world. I didn't know it at the time, but I was a virgin once more. Any concerns I might have had before about becoming pregnant were gone, for all practical purposes, though I didn't know that at the time. I was also quite alone on that world. I never found another living person while there. Finding a Winker opening was strictly up to me. So was my own security. The world was inhabited with many strange creatures which bore little resemblance to what I knew. Only once in a while did I spot anything familiar. The small animals which I recognized became my meat for survival. Together with the fruits and vegetables I found, I managed to put together a reasonable diet that would sustain me. To better my chances of finding a Winker, I began getting my daily schedule changed so that I was awake most of the night and slept during most of the day. Once I knew what to eat, I only needed an hour in the morning and evening light in order to find them. For my supper and breakfast, I generally ate a vegetarian meal. My lunch was the meal with real meat, though at first I had to eat it raw. It wasn't until about two weeks after my arrival that I found some flint deposits and took the time to learn how to make a proper fire. After that, I ate my meat cooked. It also made my need for security much greater. The aroma of cooking meat seemed to draw animals to my location. Shortly after I began cooking, I had to spend some time away from my searching in order to build a barricade to protect myself while eating or sleeping. *** It was a month after my arrival that I found evidence that others, or at least one person, had entered the world as I had. I found the remnants of that person's weapons near some human-like bones. Evidently, that person had eventually perished without ever finding his or her way back out. I hoped that I wouldn't someday be found as I found that person. I helped myself to the weapon remnants, using the spear head to replace the knife I was using for one. I also went about finding a better and longer stick to serve as my spear. Whatever killed that person, if not old age, was something I wanted to keep as far from me as possible. Though it required another day away from my search, it was well worth it to have a

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spear that was slightly longer than I was tall. I resolved then that I wasn't going to throw my spear at anything. Who knows? I might have hit the animal I was throwing at only to wound it and have it run off with my spear. I also didn't want to take a chance on breaking the spear point should it hit a rock or something harder than it. By that time, I was becoming fairly well attuned to living in the wild. My hearing was still as good as ever and so was my night vision. I was more attuned in that I knew what I was hearing when I heard it. I could assign images of various wildlife to the sounds or shapes that I heard or saw. I had some idea of which were dangerous and which weren't, as well. It wasn't a perfect knowledge of everything, but it was sufficient to keep me from just walking up to any wild animal and trying to pet it. *** Despite my attunement, I wasn't as good as I thought. It was about two months after I arrived that I had my first setback. I was again searching for a Winker when something hit me in the back. The breast plate which I still wore saved me that night by being on my back out of the way. Instead of being injured seriously, I was knocked to the ground instead. My spear fell from my hand and I was left with my faithful old stick. I say that as a joke since sticks can't be faithful, you understand. I was using my stick to swing about in hopes of finding a Winker that was at an angle to me and thus invisible. As long as I wasn't behind the Winker, I stood a fairly good chance to find it that way. That much I already knew from experimentation with the first two Winker openings. I swung out with my stick at my attacker, whacking it on the side and causing it to retreat for just a moment. Then it was back on the attack. I was still swinging. Again, I hit the creature and it swatted out at me with one of its forepaws. I felt one of my breasts ripped from my chest. The pain was horrible. Already, I knew that I couldn't use the spear, even if I could reach it, to keep the creature off me. It was simply too close for the spear. Instead, I kept swinging with the stick and managed to pull one of my knives with my other hand. The creature seemed encouraged by the howl of pain I greeted the loss of my breast with. It moved in again, but I was more than determined not to give up my life cheaply. As the creature moved in, I swung with my stick, managing to whack it about its head. It howled in pain. That wasn't its only howl of pain. I also swung my other hand in a follow up stroke, helping to even up the score with a cut to the creature's shoulder. I was rewarded with another howl from that creature. I wasn't feeling too well, myself, but I wasn't giving up. I pressed my attack forward, realizing that was my only real chance. We have similar sayings that the best defense is a good offense.

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I slashed out again at the creature while keeping my stick swing in the air. I hit the creature with the stick again and felt one of its paws rake my other arm as I reached in to cut it again. The knife connected with the beast and jabbed into its flesh. The pain of the raking made me let go of the knife. It remained sticking in the beast. My stick connected again with the beast's head as it tried to swipe at the offending knife sticking in its shoulder. For once, it went down on the ground. I was already pulling a second knife and leaped in at the animal. The stick was of little use as I grappled with the beast. I released the stick and pulled my last knife. Now, I slashed and stabbed at the beast while all four of its clawed paws raked at my body. Its teeth gripped me by one shoulder and I sensed that I had to win soon or I was dinner. Somehow, I managed to stab the creature enough times to find a vital spot. The creature quit raking me as badly as before and began to gurgle. It was dying and I was alive. I laid upon it, catching my breath and reclaiming my strength. I knew I was hurt badly, though how badly I wasn't sure. Having good night vision doesn't allow me to see everything in fine detail or good color. It just meant I could see a lot of things in shades of grey much better than anyone else. Realizing that I was hurt and probably wouldn't be able to hunt for much of anything for awhile, I cut off one of the shanks of the beast to take with me. I retreated unsteadily to my barricade, taking my weapons with me after recovering them all. Despite having rested before making for my shelter, I was still winded and tired. Because of that, I knew I'd lost a considerable amount of blood. I closed my barricade tightly and sat down to make a fire. I knew that I needed to be able to see some of my injuries. As well, I intended to cook some of the meat and eat. The sooner I did, the sooner I might regain some additional strength. I also knew that if I lost consciousness in my weakened state, I might not have the strength later to feed myself. The fire finally caught and I used my supply of firewood carefully, knowing that I wouldn't be able to forage for it either in all likelihood. I knew I was going to be laid up for several days or more. There would be no searching for food, firewood, or a Winker on my part until I recovered fully. With the fire going, I began to cook the meat and glanced at what injuries I could see on myself. I was a mess. I had deep claw marks on my legs and sides. My back was protected, despite the looseness of the breast plate which was hanging over it. The punishment it absorbed made me glad that it was where it was, especially when I got in close to kill the beast. One of its claws was still embedded in the tough leather, where it had either broken off or pulled out of the beast's paw. My left breast was ripped off entirely and missing. I was a bloody mess on my front. There was little I

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could do other than to cauterize what was still bleeding badly. Despite the pain of cauterization, I gritted my teeth and managed to remain conscious. I finally ate some of the meat, gratefully, and set about making sure that my shelter was secure. Then I turned in for the rest of the night. *** With the new day, I was better able to see where I was injured and just how badly. I was too weak to do more than crawl about in my sheltered area. I used a little of my stock of vegetables and ate some more of the meat before it could spoil. I needed water, but was really too weak to do much about that. I really needed more rest and time to recover. Sleep was the answer and sleep I did. *** When I awoke, it was nearly night. I was still only able to crawl. My muscles were torn badly and cramping up whenever I tried to stand. I settled for eating the last of the meat, knowing that my next few meals would be strictly vegetarian and sparse. I used what little daylight was left to recheck my barricade and check my weapons for any damage to them. Though I knew that sleep would help, I was unable to fall asleep at first. I laid there in my shelter wondering if I would ever be able to leave that world. *** I guess I did doze off for a while, waking a few hours later when it was night. I ate just a little of my vegetarian meal supplies and laid there some more, concentrating on not wasting any strength. I gazed around me. To my horror, a Winker opening was not far from my sheltered compound, slowly making its way across the field. It was large enough for me to fit through and I couldn't do anything about it. I was too weak to reach it. I tried to crawl across my compound to my entry point in the barricade, but I was able to see by the movement of the Winker that I'd never reach it in time by crawling. I sadly watched the Winker move across the field until the angle of viewing made it disappear. *** The next morning, I used my stick and spear to help support myself as I left my compound to get water. I stumbled rather badly, falling a few times before I reached the stream. I had no choice, though. I needed water or I was going to perish. Somehow, I did little more than open a few wounds. At least, I didn't break any bones, thus compounding my injuries. I drank my fill first and then relaxed for a few minutes. Only then did I think to take a look at myself in the water's reflection. I wasn't a pretty sight. I was bruised badly, covered in dried smelly blood, and missing part of my body. I realized then I needed to clean my wounds some, if only to keep them from being infected. I spent the better part of an hour, gently soaking part of my battered

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body in the stream and gingerly rinsing part of it until I could see myself instead of a coating of dried blood. The cauterized areas looked ugly, but they weren't bleeding. I didn't smell as badly as before, either. Not that it would have mattered since there was no one else around for me to offend. At any rate, I figured that I probably smelled less like I was dying and hoped that would mean fewer skulkers around my barricade at night. On the way back to my barricade, I picked some more fruit and vegetables to replenish some of my stock. I also ate some along the way, figuring that what I picked would last longer that way. The fresh fruit gave me some renewed energy and spirit. I felt more like I would survive, even if I limped around from my injuries. Likely, I wouldn't be able to have fresh meat as often as I was used to, but being alive was an accomplishment in itself. Once back at the barricade, I managed to put the food inside and then slowly forced my aching and tired body to forage for some new firewood. I didn't want much. Just enough to use for keeping any of the bigger predators away from me. After all, I didn't have anything to cook on it, so that would be its only purpose. I accomplished that and finished by closing up my barricade for the day. I went to sleep almost immediately. *** When I awoke, it was light again. I had slept through the night without even so much as making a small fire to keep any predators away. My barricade had stood alone against all the creatures of the night. It had held since I was alive. I felt a little stronger and ate from my food stock. I looked at my wounds, but they seemed little changed. Feeling up to it, I went ahead and left my compound once more to seek the stream. Again, I used my stick and spear as improvised crutches or canes to help me stagger to the stream. I didn't stumble as badly as before. After all, I wasn't as dehydrated as I had been before. At the stream, I bathed myself again, cleaning my wounds. I drank heavily and then left. Along the way back, I foraged for more fruit and vegetables. A little more firewood went into the heap as well. Then it was time for more rest and sleep. *** I managed to slowly get back to my regular schedule of being up nights and sleeping during the daytime when it was safest. I still wasn't hunting for meat, but I had a more than sufficient supply of vegetables and managed to use some of the hide from the beast's shank which I last ate from to fashion a crude water bottle. By crude, I meant that it would at least hold water for a few hours. It was helpful to say the least. I no longer had to go to the stream to get a drink during the middle of the night when I became thirsty. I could search about for a Winker without interruption.

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I could walk much steadier, needing only one crutch most of the time. That permitted me to swing about wildly in the air for a Winker. The damage to my body was less noticeable, particularly on my legs and arms. The other wounds still looked nasty, but they were healing. *** It was about a week after I returned to my regular schedule when I spotted another Winker, but it was much too high up for me to reach, let alone look through. Jumping was out of the question. All I could see was a green sky. I wondered what that world was like. *** I had no choice but to continue my nightly searching as I was regaining my strength along with most of my former agility. Though I still walked with a slight limp, I was soon able to run once more for short stretches. Doubtless, I would have improved some more if I remained there for years and years. It wasn't too long after that when I finally began to hunt for meat again. It took a while for me to regain all my hunting skills. My right shoulder was badly torn during the fight. It was among the last places on my body to heal. It could have been far worse if the breast plate hadn't absorbed half of that bite. Still, trying to hunt helped to exercise my injured shoulder. I guess it was about a month later when it was just about fully functioning. I moved about a lot more cautiously when I hunted and searched. Thankfully, when I hunted, I could still search. Had I spotted a Winker then, I would have given up the hunt for the opportunity to return to my world, no matter what shape I was in or would be. Slowly, but surely, I regained some strength. I also moved my camp nearer to the stream. That made getting a drink much easier and gave me more time to search after leaving in the evening and before returning in the morning. Maybe it wasn't much more time to search, but it was something I could do about my circumstances to make me feel like I was more in control of everything. Sure, I was. Right? *** The days began piling up on each other. My wounds became scars. My injuries proved less and less to be impediments to my hunting or mobility. I limped less and didn't have to rely on a cane for support most of the time. I pretty much kept to the area I arrived in, knowing that sooner or later another Winker would come along. I had seen two besides the one I arrived through. Three in about four months wasn't bad odds. There was no telling how many I hadn't seen in that time. The area could have been ripe with them for all I knew. *** Probably the worst thing that happened was that I became too confident, having survived an animal attack and gotten myself back into

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shape. I was again searching for a Winker when I stumbled unknowingly across another creature's ambush position. Had the creature been skulking or trying to come upon me from somewhere else, I doubtless would have heard or possibly seen the beast in plenty of time to deal with it properly. Instead, I wandered right past its ambush position and it leaped out at me from behind. Once more, my breast plate saved me from immediate doom. It was still performing its duty admirably. I went stumbling forward, making sure that I didn't lose grip of either my stick or spear. When I hit the ground, I managed to roll to the side in time to avoid the follow up attack by the beast. What's more, I was able to swat the creature with my stick across its back. It jerked about and gave me time to further react which it didn't want to do. For once, the fight was almost even. I couldn't get my spear into action as yet because of its length and my prone position. My stick was basically the only thing I had going for me at the time. The beast wheeled about and charged again. This time, I jabbed the stick at it, catching it in the mouth. Though its front limbs reached out at me and one connected with my outstretched wrist, I suffered no permanent damage as yet. I jabbed some more while the stick was in the creature's mouth, making it retreat to dislodge it. All the while, I was getting to my knees, giving myself a chance to use my longer spear. The beast lunged once more. Now, I met it with the spear point. I struck the shoulder of the beast. It howled in pain and jerked about as the point hit some nerves. It turned its head and snapped at the shaft of the spear. I heard the shaft crunch and knew then that the spear was no better than my stick. It was hardly any longer than it as well. As the creature yanked at the portion of spear lodged in it, I used the time to my advantage. I got to my feet and advanced on it swinging both the broken spear and stick like clubs. I got in a few blows on the beast as it tore out the spear from its shoulder. Then we were in combat again. The beast retreated a few paces, giving itself a temporary respite from my counter-attack and time to consider its options. It didn't require more than a second to make up its mind. I can only guess that it was quite hungry. It wasn't going to give up on me as its meal. It charged into me, taking the blows I rained upon it with impunity. Then I felt myself being knocked over backwards. For once, I used some of my martial training when I allowed myself to continue to roll, kicking up with my booted feet to make the creature flip over me rather than letting it get me pinned down. I made the next mistake, trying to get up on my feet while the creature was behind me. It scrambled to all four of its legs first and charged again. I was just barely standing up when I felt it hit me from behind. I went

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sprawling down onto my face and front. The beast was on top of me and doing its best to tear at my head with its teeth. As I started to beat at it with one hand from an awkward position, I pulled one of my knives with my other hand. I began striking behind and over me to get the beast off me. I could feel blood from the creature dripping down onto me from my slashing knife. I had no idea of how bad off I was. I hurt all over and knew that I was in a fight to the death. The beast wasn't giving up and I couldn't surrender. It was simply kill or be killed. Slash and tear. Tear and slash. We went at each other. I kicked what little I could while laying on my belly even as I whacked the beast with my stick and slashed with my knife even as it tried to keep me pinned with its weight and paws. Somehow, somehow, I felt the beast suddenly shiver, stiffen, and slide down onto me just when I thought my skull was going to crush inward as it got its mouth around it. I could feel the teeth of the creature grating against the bone of my skull. I thought I was a goner. Only massive amounts of adrenaline saved me then when, with a final furious fight, I killed off the creature to save myself. Of all the things I knew, I knew then that I had to get the creature off me so I could crawl back to my barricaded shelter. I was still pinned under its weight. My strength was almost gone. Really, I had doubts about being able to reach my shelter alive, not because of my wounds but because other predators would soon be responding to the free meat. I would soon have to fight my way through them if I couldn't get away from underneath that beast right then or soon. First, I began by working the dead creature's mouth off my head. I was still gripped by it. It hurt to do so, but I had no choice. I either got out or got ate when another predator saw my predicament. Slowly, I pried at the mouth, forcing it open until I could pull my head free, losing copious amounts of hair in the process. Once my head was free, I was able to twist my body to crawl from under its weight. It might have been hungry enough to attack me, but it wasn't starving by any means of reckoning. It was a heavy beast that I slowly clawed my way from under. I laid there next to it, looking around to see if I was safe. I was still gasping for breath, having had enough of it knocked out of me in the fight. I was still gripping my knife and for good reason. I wasn't sure if anything would find me before I freed myself. Now that I could look around freely in most directions, I finally put my knife away. Crawling to keep myself from being seen very easily, I recovered the front portion of my broken spear. The spear point could be reused on a new spear. I turned around to retrieve my stick, lying beside the beast when I saw the Winker slowly moving my direction. Crawling back to my stick, I heard the roar of another predator. There was little choice. Either take my chances

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inside the Winker or face another beast. I didn't see any real choice in that. It was either stay and die for sure or take a chance that there was nothing dangerous waiting inside the Winker that would also kill me. I crawled on past the stick, which I grabbed, towards the Winker. It was coming nearer just as was the predator. It was a race between the three of us, so to speak. I had to reach the Winker before it got past me and before the beast reached me. Already, I was past the dead creature which might interest the oncoming predator which my hearing told me wasn't very far away then. The Winker opening was drawing nearer. I forced myself to use what energy reserves I still had as I crawled on my belly for it. The predator was now in sight. I knew because I glanced back once. It was as fearsome as the one I killed. It wasn't sure which meal it wanted. It hesitated. I didn't. I kept crawling, trying to put more distance between us and give it fewer choices. The Winker drew even nearer. Perhaps the appearance of the light coming out of the Winker made it go for the free meal instead of me. I'll never know for sure. I only know that I was grateful to feel the hard inner edge of the Winker as I crawled into it and left the other world behind. Looking back as I laid there bleeding, the Winker continued to move away from me, giving me more time to rest in case the beast came through.

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Chapter 4 It wasn't for about ten or more minutes before I remembered to look around to ascertain if I was in any danger in the new world of grey skies and grass. It was a somber looking world and didn't make me feel any better about my choice. I seemed to be getting farther and farther away from my own beautiful world. Yeah, I know that in retrospect that all the different worlds I visited were beautiful in their own ways. Still, the one I called home was the most beautiful to me. I think I can be forgiven my bias. It wasn't until I finished looking around at my surroundings before I bothered to look at myself. For a moment, I thought I was dying. My skin was black, very black. I was reluctant to look under my skirt, but look I did. For once, I had something to smile about. It wasn't as big as what I once had, but I was male again. It took me a few more moments to realize that my breasts were going back to the chest of a man. Amazingly, the damage suffered to my left breast was repairing itself. It wasn't a fast process to be sure, but it was happening. I was glad to be hungry. Had I more time, perhaps I could have brought some of the meat along with me from the last dead predator I killed. But, as you know now, that wasn't at all feasible. I was more than glad to be alive, hungry, and male. *** I guess I laid there for several hours, my body racked by its recovery and changing at the same time. My only advantage was that it was daylight and I could see clearly whatever was coming my way. What's more, because of my schedule of the other world, I wouldn't need sleep until nightfall. However, whatever reserves I carried within me were dwindling. But, I felt stronger and no longer restricted to crawling. Carefully, I got to my feet and began to search for food while keeping alert to any danger. Again, I used the same approach for finding food. Careful testing by tasting followed by eating if it seemed suitable. Of course, I was guiding myself by what appeared to resemble most anything edible I already knew of on my world or either of the two others I'd been to. For the most part, that method was working. I guess it was while I was on that world when I came to the conclusion that some plants were bound to have made the journey when some of their seeds went through a Winker while on the way to their site to sprout and grow. It was then that I figured that they would likely change in appearance just as I had. Whether it was caused by being on the other world or by going through the Winker, I didn't know. It didn't really matter, either. Well, yes it did. There was one thought which came up as a result of my theorizing. If the change was caused by the Winker, then there was a

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possibility that the change I went through once I found my own world again might not make me look like I used to appear. I might not even be the same gender when I returned to my world. However, that was fatalistic thinking which I quickly abandoned for obvious reasons. I had to hope that everything would turn out right for me. I had to have some goal to reach, some gain to make. Speaking of gains, I was gaining several things along my travels. I was becoming quite good at foraging, hunting, and other skills. If nothing else, I had proved I could survive, even when almost everything was taken from me. I had little to my name as it was. My clothing consisted of a leather skirt and breast plate along with well-torn boots. The leather tops of the boots had saved my legs from serious injury more than once now. I had suffered in both attacks, but not as much as I could or would have without their protection. My back was protected as well. Besides my clothing, I still had three knives, a spear point, a flint in a leather bag I made, my stick, and a crude water bottle. Because of the fight, there was only a little water inside it. I greedily drank it, feeling it reach my throat and answering my thirst. As I walked along, it soon became apparent that I was going to have to give up one luxury. My feet were returning to nearly the size they had been. They could no longer be restrained without injury by my boots. It was tough taking them off and tough getting along without them at first. My feet were tender and my progress slow. Right then I realized I didn't have the option of flight if danger presented itself. That, together with my realization of my previous over-confidence, made me more cautious as I moved around and foraged. I used the boots to carry extra food whenever I could find it in abundance. *** I was in no hurry to meet any people, no matter how charming they might be. I was still feeling the changes happening in my body. What I earlier saw of my manhood was it. It wasn't much, but it was mine. I hoped that would change once I found my own world. After all, going between two worlds as a woman, I experienced changes in the size of my anatomy, so it was possible for it to happen to me as a man. Anyway, I certainly hoped so. Most of the first few days, I simply ate until I could eat no more. Then I would find a place to rest and let some more of the changes take place. Along with building a shelter to protect me during the night, I had little else to do. By the time the first week was through, the changes had ended already. Having plenty of food did make the change happen faster. It only took five days despite my injuries which couldn't even be seen as scars. I

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wondered if the injuries or scars would reappear if I happened to return to the world I left. Of course, I didn't have any incentive to find out, so I hoped that when I began my search for a Winker opening that I wouldn't happen to return to that world. Also by the end of the week, I was eating meat again. I was back into good condition for a man and was hunting successfully. The meat I caught and cooked was good for my spirits as well as my body. *** I made the transition from being awake during the day to during the night. Once again, I was seeking a Winker opening in hopes of returning to my home world. I quite forgot that having a fire in the middle of the night wasn't the brightest thing to do. It was because of having a fire that I was found by other people. *** They came into my camp while I was busy eating. I heard them coming, but there was little I could do about it. I could tell by the sounds that they had me surrounded. My feet were a little tougher, so I might have been able to run. However, I chose to stay and hope for the best. I didn't want to mark myself as either afraid or an enemy. I should have taken my chances on running. Too late, I heard the swishing sound made by the rope they lassoed me with. One moment it was in the air, swirling around. The next moment, it was around me and being yanked tight. Then they were all over me, their fists pummeling me into unconsciousness. *** I came to somewhere else. I was naked, tired, sore, and hungry, not to mention thirsty. I tried to sit up and found myself chained in place. There wasn't much of anything I was going to do without one of my captors allowing it. I rested instead of trying to force myself out of the chains. *** It was hours later before one of my captors showed up. Right then, I remembered my fear of returning to my home world as something other than what I started as. My captor was brown, not black. He was looking at one of the knives I had with me before. "Where'd you get this?" he asked me. "It was given to me by a woman," I answered truthfully, preferring not to antagonize him considering my predicament. I might be brave, but I'm not foolish, especially when I'm chained to the ground. It didn't do me much good, though. He kicked me and said, "Where'd you get this?" "It was given to me by a woman," I again answered. It was better to tell the truth I felt than to try to remember any lies. I only hoped that he soon

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believed me or my ribs would soon become useless to me. He didn't bother kicking me that time or asking again. Instead, he looked me over carefully and his eyes grew wide when he looked at my proud new manhood. I should have expected the worst right then, but I was new to the world. "Gerog!" he shouted. Another man came into my line of sight. "Look!" he said. Gerog looked at me and then at the knife. It was then that I suspected what would happen. I couldn't keep my legs together. The two of them forced them apart and used my own knife to cut off both my balls. They didn't even bother to cauterize the wound they made. I could have bled to death for all they cared. Fortunately for me, I didn't. From that moment on, I would despise the two of them for doing that to me. I hoped that I could somehow get away from them and hunt them down later to kill as slowly as I could manage, starting with their own testicles. *** The following day, they finally fed me and gave me some water. I was able to sit up for the first time as well. Shortly after that, they forced me to my feet with threats and abuse. I walked in front of them, my head held high. I had nothing to be ashamed of, except, perhaps, my stupidity in making a fire in the middle of the night. I climbed onto a wagon and sat down among some other men and women as black as myself. Some of the brown men drove the wagon, some walked beside it, and a few rode on some of the beasts which looked similar to horses. Horses are one animal which I've found often on the different worlds. Sometimes, they've gone through major changes just as I have. Other times, they appear to be identical. Most likely, I've theorized, it's because they occur in so many breeds that they simply become another breed just as I've become another color. The same is true of many of the plants. What you call an apple on Earth is a different color on some other world. Occasionally, it's a slightly different shape, but not often. That might be due to cross-breeding with other plants for all I know. After all, we're ahead in rocket science. You're the ones ahead in genetics, so you tell me. *** Hours later, we reached our destination, an auction block. Our captors were through with humiliating us. The women were abused by being raped in front of us. For some of the other men, it was an ordeal. They were either related by marriage or as father and daughter. One man charged his captors, despite the restraining chains, getting a knife in his stomach for his efforts. He died slowly with more indignities heaped upon him. Our captors sliced off his penis and shoved it up the woman in question's vagina. Then they pissed

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on him when they needed to relieve themselves. I guess it took him almost an hour to die. I and two others were given the task of carrying him off and burying him with his head first in the dirt. His legs were left sticking out of the ground. I don't know the reason for that, but there were some other bodies near where we buried him. They, too, had their legs sticking out of the ground or their leg and foot bones were collapsed in a small pile where a body was buried. When we finished with our task, we returned to the auction block to await our turn. I was infuriated to learn that they openly admitted that I was a free man until the other night when they captured me and made me a slave. My crime was in being on their property, so they enslaved me. Had I been, say, on a public road, I would have still been free. That's basically what I learned, partly then and partly later. "Well, he isn't much to look at, but he looks strong, doesn't eat much, and should be able to do a honest hard day's work with just a touch of the lash," the auctioneer said. One of the men came over and whispered something. Then the auctioneer said, "And he's educated. He speaks our language, so you won't have to spend any time teaching him what to do. Now, what am I bid?" The auction was very quiet. Each bidder used a slate or something similar to that to mark down what they were bidding. When ready, the bidder raised the slate. Only the auctioneer spoke. When no other offers were raised, the winner was the highest, as in most auctions. I felt my chain being released from the other men. Then I was handed over to a huge man whom I didn't want to tackle by myself with all these others around to help him and chains on my wrists and ankles. I could bide my time and wait for the proper time to make my escape. Since losing my balls, I wondered if those would be replaced by going through another Winker as part of my chest had been. If so, then there was lots of hope left for me to live for. The only question was whether I could escape and take the chance on revenge before I searched once more for a Winker. The man was big and strong. I could sense that in the way he yanked me about when he forced me into his wagon. Beside me were several other slaves, likewise now owned by him. We were quiet as he drove us off later, having purchased one more after me. Why such a big man needed a slave to do his work was beyond reason to me. Didn't he take any pride in his own work? *** It was nearly night before we reached his property. Not having seen much of different residences, I had no means of determining if he was rich or

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middle class. He soon instructed us to head for the barn. It was up to me to lead the way to the structure he was pointing to. It wasn't quite like any barn I had seen before, but once inside, it was quite the same. He followed along and instructed me to lead the others into a room. Once inside, he secured the door and left. I didn't start speaking, unsure if he was nearby listening. However, some of the others began to talk after a few minutes. It was soon apparent that they didn't speak the same language. I wondered what the topography was like and where they were from. However, with the language barrier, I had no way of knowing. Looking at the men, I could see in the fading light that most of the men were freshly enslaved as I was. Their wounds, where they lost their testicles, were still fresh. I had no idea yet how the women were marked as slaves. I would soon find out. *** The following day, we were told to come out of the room. At least, we were given some food and water. We were all tired, hungry, and thirsty, mostly the last two. Since there were no other slaves, I concluded our owner was an up and comer. He had his fortune or its start and was building it into something more. "Tell them to eat and drink. Then I want you to start building that fire over there," he said to me. "I don't know their language," I replied. "You what?" he exclaimed. "I don't know their language. I was traveling from another land entirely when I was waylaid. I might look like them, but I've never seen any of them before yesterday. I haven't the slightest idea of what their language is like." He didn't give me many choices. "Well, now you have a problem, then. You better learn enough of their language to teach them mine. Along with that, you've still got a fire to get started. If you don't, then I'm going to finish the job on you and stick your legs up in the air." I gathered from his statement that he meant he would kill me. That was a pretty good incentive, I figured. I started on the fire while getting one of the men to listen to what I was saying. There was no way I would have enough time to both learn his language and then teach him the other. It was going to have to be him doing all the learning even if it reduced my value to the slave master. I taught him a few words as I went through my first chore. I didn't much care for or like my next chore. It made it more difficult for me to teach the others the language. I had to brand the women with a hot iron. You already know how they branded us males. Well, the iron went right into their pubic hair just above their treasure trove. You know, their vagina or

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pussy as you of Earth so often call it. The iron was red hot and had to be pressed long enough to not only sear the skin, but kill any hair cells underneath. The stench of burning hair and skin was horrible. The reactions of the male and female slaves was even worse after the first woman was branded. The women tried to run and the slave master simply stepped on the end of the long chain, tripping many of them down to the ground. The men tried to advance on him. They stopped when he gutted the first man and looked at the next one of them with the same intention. Quickly, he went from one to the next, securing them down on the ground. Then he began to behave even worse. He yanked the branding iron from me and began branding all the men on the tip of their penis. I was last to feel the hot iron sear my flesh when he secured me and used the iron once more. Then he made the mistake of releasing and telling me to put the fire out and put the tools away, thinking I wouldn't harbor any ill-will against him. The iron was still hot and heavy. He turned his back on me and I swung with all my might, ignoring the pain I was in, which he'd inflicted. I think the pain made it possible for me to put more strength into my swing. I was able to knock him down to the ground. Quickly, I hit him again, breaking one of his arms. There was little time to stop or think. I didn't know if there were any other people about on his property or not. I swung again at his other arm, breaking it after two blows. Disabled somewhat, it was much more of a fair fight. Undaunted by the fear of someone else coming to his rescue, I smashed at his legs until I broke one. With him unable to run, walk, or crawl away, I took the keys to our freedom away from him and began using them to first release myself. I was half undecided about releasing all the others. I guess I figured then that if I did, it might go to show how I hadn't wanted to do as he said. Besides, they could provide a diversion for my own escape which I intended to provision right well while I had the time and opportunity. I went ahead and began releasing the women and then the men. Though they were in pain, they wanted revenge, thankfully not on me. My own suffering hadn't gone unnoticed. They swarmed over the man, ripping his clothing from him so he was as naked as we. When one of them held out his hand for the branding iron, I didn't hesitate in letting him take it. I even pointed to the fire so that he would get the idea of heating it back up. He did get the idea and went over to the fire. Some of the men began to search the area, mostly for food and water. Evidently, some of them hadn't eaten as well as I had. The owner was being tortured with the branding iron starting with his testicles since none of us had a knife yet. His yells drowned out the screams of the woman some of the men brought back from the house. Before she

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reached the place where her husband was being tortured, she was similarly stripped. I made no move to protect her, even though she was obviously pregnant. It didn't take much education to figure out how to use the locks and shackle her down on the ground beside him. After that, she was tortured along with her husband until they both died. I didn't see them die. I made for the house myself, going through it to find what I could. There wasn't much in the way of clothing that I could wear unless I wanted to wear a dress. I did find weapons and other things along with food and a water flask much better than the one I once made. Rope and a rucksack to carry much of my loot in completed my adornment. I did find a blanket and stuffed it inside the sack. Though I wasn't sure how much time I had before anyone else might come along and discover our uprising, I went ahead and continued on through the house, ransacking it for more than just survival equipment. I found a bow and arrows which I figured I could learn to use. In what appeared to be a library, I found the map. The map was perhaps the best thing I could find in all of that house. It showed, of all things, the local layout in fairly close detail. Not knowing where I was when captured, I could only guess where that was based on what I saw afterwards when I regained consciousness. The map showed what would have been the first location I was aware of after being captured. Using the markings on the map indicating property lines, I guessed I was found somewhere on that property. Even better, the map was in the same language I shared with my captors. I now knew where the other captives came from. Their land, an unsettled land, was across a river not far from that property and some others. Evidently, they had been taken from their land to become slaves for these others. Their freedom was their problem. My freedom, I figured, was my own. I left the house, looking at the map, not even realizing there were no more screams of pain from the man and woman. They were dead then. I didn't even think of them until I looked up from the map to get my bearings. That was when I didn't see anyone around them. Their bodies were lying still upon the ground. Out of curiosity, I walked that way. Well, to tell the truth, I had to pass that way to get where I was going. I got to their bodies and looked down. Most of their bodies were seared or burned with marks from the branding iron. There was little of their flesh which wasn't marked. As a final gesture, the woman's unborn child had been skewered with the branding iron after it was allowed to cool off so that the user could hold it by the branding end. The brand was facing upwards as it stuck out of the woman's womb. I felt no remorse at the moment for either of them. You reap what you sow. They sowed slavery and death. They reaped death while in the embrace

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of their own chains. Maybe later I thought about the unborn child, but not for much or often. When I did, it was only to remember that it would have been brought up in an environment where slavery was all right to do to others. The child would probably have perpetuated it. Of course, that's mere supposition on my part. It isn't always that way, especially after having read some Earth history during my stay. Still, there hadn't been any protestors to the slavery at the auction or any other time while I was on that world. I didn't stare long at the two bodies. I had places to go and be. As well, there would sooner or later be a discovery of their deaths. In fact, I was just barely able to stop one of the others from torching the house and barn. I heard the piercing war cry as the man lit a torch from the fire used to heat the branding iron. He began running for the barn first. Dropping my gear, I ran after him. I barely caught up with him, tackling him to the ground. Others came for us to deal with me. I frantically did my best to draw on the dirt that if they torched the place, the smoke would alert everyone in the area. Then they would know we had escaped. You never saw anyone draw little stick figures in the dirt so fast as I was at the time. Despite the fact that they couldn't understand me, I talked away while I explained with the pictures in the dirt that if they torched the buildings, then others would see and retake us. I was greatly relieved when they finally understood and put out the torch instead of using it. I walked back and picked up what I took from the house. Then I began walking once more, confident that I could at least find my way to where the men were who abused me so badly. The others were going in almost the same direction. I could tell that they, too, were good hunters. They were doing their best not to leave a trail, despite having women along who were inexperienced in not leaving trails. Actually, I wasn't all that experienced in not leaving a trail myself. For the past months, I relied on being able to backtrack myself and deliberately left trails. Now, I worked hard at not leaving a trail. I knew about where I needed to go and I didn't want anymore of my former captors to follow and recapture me. As I walked along, at a very slow and leisurely pace so that I could check my trail often, I thought about how to survive with people deliberately trying to track and either capture or kill me. It meant I couldn't cook in the middle of the night. That would give away my position. Likewise, cooking during the day was out because they'd be able to triangulate on the smoke. That left sunrise and sunset and only for very brief time periods. Likewise, my campsite would have to be hidden, well hidden. I couldn't afford to take the same approach to it, either. I could afford to do nothing that would give my location away until I succeeded in getting to another world or to another land far from these slavers. I had two more reasons for wanting to get to another world, both of

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which were missing from between my legs. Those were the same reasons for which I was going to kill two men. If it came to it, I'd kill more. It didn't matter. I knew that slavery was wrong. Certainly those men and women wouldn't have volunteered to be slaves themselves. They didn't treat each other with such behavior, so why should anyone else be treated that way? If anything, from what I'd seen of the world I was on, I was more educated and skilled than any of my captors. I had more self-discipline and control than they possessed. If having an education was important, then everyone of them should have been my slaves. However, I knew slavery was wrong and I wasn't going to enslave any of them for my own gain. But that didn't mean I wouldn't seek revenge against them and use torture to achieve it. I didn't mind how many people I had to go through in order to survive. I didn't pick on them. They picked on me. Now it was their turn to reap their rewards. Perhaps in killing some of them, I might create some history that others could later build on to abolish slavery on their world. My self-started uprising for freedom might have already been enough of a start, but I couldn't be sure without ever returning to that world. That was one question I was going to leave unanswered, just as I would try not to answer some other questions I thought of during the months. As I walked, I wished I had instructed the other escapees to attack some of the other homesteads. Such an attack might have stalled any attempts to recapture us. It certainly would have thrown confusion into the slaver ranks. They might have even become too afraid to leave their families and track any of us down. *** Finally, I was no longer in sight of the other escapees or anyone else. At that moment, I changed my course. If the escapees were being followed, perhaps I would still escape by not being near them. I was also going wide on my course around the homestead where my original captors lived. Doubtless, I expected them to figure on me trying to return to where I was. I hoped to let them lead me there since I didn't really know where there was. By being on the opposite side, there was a chance they might not spot me following them or find my own trail, slight as it was by then. It took most of a day to reach my preferred location from which I could watch with some expectation of security. *** At my vantage spot, I used the blanket, taken from my owner's home, to create a small blind, further concealing my black body against the grey landscape. I kept my gear close to me and began practicing with the bow and arrows. As the dark set in, I quit my practice and rested with my back against a tree. One hand rested on a knife and the other loosely gripped my rucksack

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in case I had to run. The blanket would be a loss, but I figured I could always steal another. At that point, I had already decided it wasn't so much stealing as insuring my survival against people who would kill me for failing to do something quickly enough to suit them or trying to defend myself. Had they been reasonable people with reasonable laws, I would have done my best to respect both. I napped throughout the night, afraid to sleep deeply for fear that they might be able to find me somehow. *** With the morning, the smell of food from the homestead woke me. I quietly ate from my own supplies and continued my watch of the homestead. Nothing much happened all that day. I did a little more practice with my bow and arrows, improving my efficiency and effectiveness with the weapon until I felt that I could at least hit a still target with a reasonable expectation of accuracy regarding my point of aim. I finally began my second night of light sleeping. *** With the new day, I woke again and watched the homestead. It was close to noon when a rider came to the homestead in a big hurry. The men, some of whom I could barely make out and recognize, began to arm themselves and soon left. Doubtless, they now knew of the uprising and subsequent escape. *** It was then that I decided to throw some fear into them myself. As they left, I figured that they would be busy trying to pick up the tracks. That gave me several hours to do something important. Quietly, I draped myself in the grey blanket and carried my belongings with me. It was cheap camouflage, but it worked. I was able to slowly make my way down to the homestead from my vantage point. Only when I got real close did I leave some of my belongings underneath the blanket and carry only my weapons with me as I continued into the homestead. I crept up to one of the out buildings. The slaves they owned were still doing their work. They were all chained. I wasn't sure if I could get their chains off, but they did have mobility since they weren't chained to each other. At least, they could make for their own land to freedom, such as it would be. Perhaps, like myself, they wanted to put an end to the slavery and would fight instead. Either way was a blow for freedom. It was worth it at the time for me to take the risk. After all, I had fought in war before to avoid seeing over half my own world put into chains. I could at least strike one small blow here for the same cause. When I wasn't in sight of the other buildings, I called out to the slaves, "Hey!" It was enough to catch their attention. They looked at me, the color of

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my skin, and my weapons. "You want freedom?" I asked. "Yes!" was the unanimous answer. "Then now is the time to strike for it. Do you know where the keys are or tools to take those chains off?" I asked. "The master always has the keys. There are tools in the house," was the reply from one of them. "How many people are in the house?" I asked. They appeared to be thinking and figuring out the exact number. Then one of them said, "Seven. Two children, the master's woman, the master's wife, and three slave women." I asked, "Who's this master's woman? Is she brown like the master?" "No, she was one of us. Now she is one of them. She warms the master's bed," one said with resentment or anger. I wasn't quite sure. "Will the slave women oppose me?" I asked. "No, but the others will," the slave man replied. I said, "Okay. I need a diversion in case you happen to see any of them coming out of the house. If I hear you all starting to make a lot of noise, I'll figure that one of them might be able to see me. Then I'll take cover or take out whoever came out." "What if it's one of the slave women?" one asked. I answered, "If she can be trusted, then keep quiet, otherwise give me a warning. Also, keep an eye on the road in case the others return. I'm going to the house now." Quietly, I left them and made my way towards the house, using what cover I could find. I saw the woman come out of the house. She was black as I and quite beautiful. There wasn't any noise, so I continued to advance from behind the concealment I dodged into. I made my way up beside the house. She passed quite near and whispered, "The master's women are in the front room." I nodded and pulled my knife. I followed her into the house, forgetting completely about the two children. They were in the room I entered. All at once, all hell broke loose. One of the children was seated so that she could see me. She screamed. I grabbed the other child from behind and put my knife to her throat. Hardly before the girl's scream ended, the man's wife and the mistress appeared. The master's wife had a knife of her own. "Drop it or I'll kill this girl!" I snarled. "Drop it!" She finally dropped her knife when I pressed my blade tighter against the girl's throat. "Get some rope and tie them all up," I told one of the slave women. She ran to do as I said. Within minutes, both the wife and mistress, as well as the two girls, were tied up.

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"You, take that knife and guard them until I get back. You and you, show me where the tools are," I said. Quickly, the one slave woman picked up the knife the woman dropped and began to stand guard. The other two women showed me where the tools were kept. I was disappointed. The tools were in a locked room. "Do you know where the key to this room is?" I asked them. They both shook their heads indicating that they didn't. I said, "All right, we'll go back and ask the man's wife. Maybe she'll know." We went back to the other room where the four hostages were being kept. "Where's the key to the tool room?" I asked of the woman. She didn't answer. I slapped her and demanded, "Where's the key?" "Go to hell," she replied. "Fine, but you're going there first. However, before you go, here's something of a payback for all the slavery you've condoned. Untie that girl and strip her!" I demanded of the three slave women as I pointed at one of the girls. They went at her with enthusiasm, quickly untying her and then ripping her clothes from her body as she screamed and cried in terror. The woman began to cry for us not to hurt her daughter. "Throw her on the floor and hold her there!" I told the three slave women. They did that just as eagerly. Before the woman could object any further, I somehow managed to get an erection with my injured penis and rape the girl. Even though I couldn't possibly get her pregnant, my penetration was largely a symbolic act of retribution and a form of torture to put her and the mother through. As I withdrew from the girl, I cut her throat from ear to ear with my knife. "Where's the key?" I demanded, while staring at the remaining girl who was stunned into silence finally. She wasn't crying anymore. Her sister, I presumed then, was lying on the floor, raped and dead. That was plenty of reason for her to become serious then. The woman pleaded for me not to take and kill her other daughter, confirming my presumption. "Untie and strip her!" I ordered. The girl finally screamed again as the three slave women went at their tasks with vengeance in mind. I didn't even have to tell them to toss her onto the floor and hold her there. They figured that out on their own. I was about to go down on the girl when the mother broke to save her last daughter. "The key is on a chain around my neck," she hollered, "Now, let my daughter go!" I went over, ripped the top of the woman's dress open, and found the

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key. I ripped it from her and then slit her throat, leaving her to die right there. Then for the hell of it, I went ahead and raped the girl, symbolically of course, before I slit her throat. I left her to die on the floor. "Keep watch on that woman," I instructed the slave woman with the knife. The other two women went with me to open the tool room. Once inside it, I found the necessary tools to get the men loose from their chains. We left the tool room burdened down with tools. As we passed though the back room, the mistress was almost dead. "Is it all right if I kill her?" the slave woman asked. "Go ahead if you want," I replied as I made my way outside the house, knowing that the mistress would soon be dead. Upon exiting the house with the tools and two of the slave women helping to carry more, the male slaves came from behind the building they were hiding behind. Quickly, we began working on their chains. It took some time, but we eventually got most of them free. A few still had chains hanging from their wrists, but they weren't bound by them from running or fighting. Then I began instructing them. "Go through the house carefully while one of you stands watch. Find all the weapons you can and arm yourselves. Once you're armed, get plenty of food and something for each of you to carry some in. Don't head back to your territory. You must do something to stop these slavers before they go over to your lands and enslave more of your people. I'm sure you all still have some family members there you don't want to see end up as slaves. This is your chance to keep that from happening. You can send the women there to tell them what you're doing since they can still bear children, even if they are of other men. You men cannot, but you can fight." They took in my words, showing they were every bit as intelligent as myself. I gave them a few more suggestions for raining havoc upon the countryside and then wished them well, letting them know I was going to see who else I could free. Yeah, I lied again, but this time it wasn't entirely a lie. I was still trying to free myself. Not long after I left, the homestead was torched. That would be sure to draw the trackers back from any trail they were following. The women I set free did head back for their homeland with the purpose of raising children to keep their people strong and free. The men were heading elsewhere, doubtless using some of the ideas I gave them. For myself, I made it back to my vantage point, armed with my gear and blanket again. I knew I wouldn't have much of a vigil to keep before I would be able to start following the trackers. So, in another way, I was going to strike another blow for freedom by trying to kill some of the slavers. By killing them, I would be setting others free. Like I said, it wasn't all a lie. ***

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When the tracking party arrived, they found the house almost totally destroyed together with the out buildings. They looked around. As I expected, they found the trail of the three women, but not of the men or myself. They organized themselves and began tracking the women. From my vantage point, I nocked one of my arrows and fired as soon as their backs were to me. I managed to wound one of them. He fell from his horse and the others were thrown into confusion. They couldn't see me because of my blind. They knew the arrow came from somewhere, but they didn't have the slightest idea of where. I watched them carefully until they made the mistake of looking in the wrong direction as a group. That's when I unleashed a second arrow at them. I managed to wound a horse, which threw its rider with better consequences than I could have hoped for. The horse fell over onto the first wounded man, crushing him to death. The man, who was thrown, suffered a broken leg from the impact with the ground, though I like the way you say it on Earth as his sudden unexpected stop. The odds were considerably reduced in my favor and for the benefit of the three women whom they started to follow. If I couldn't keep them occupied, at least there would be fewer of them to chase after the women. Now the men were more wary, falling into the second part of my trap. They dismounted and saw to the injury of the one man. All the while, the rest of them tried to be facing in different directions at all times so that one of them could spot my next shot. All I had to wait for was a quick diversion. I didn't have long to wait for one. The man was being helped onto his horse when smoke was spotted from another homestead. When they all turned to look, I managed to quickly unloose two more arrows at them before ducking out of sight completely, not that I was ever really visible. One arrow hit one of the men, killing him to my delight. The other arrow hit another horse, sending the same injured man back onto the ground. My first arrow had gone right through the dead man's neck, keeping him from saying anything while my second arrow was on its way to the horse. The three men who were left uninjured looked around, guessing the direction I was in from the angle of the two shots. They still couldn't see me, but they knew I was out there. I had range on them and they knew it. From my accuracy, they knew I could probably reach out and kill them when I was ready. While two of them watched my direction, the third gave the injured man a hand up onto his horse. Then they rode away as fast as they could towards the second burning homestead. As they did, I shot one more arrow at them. I hit the wounded man in the back. I don't think the riders knew he was dead until they reached the burning homestead. For myself, I was elated at having hit a moving target, even though it was on a straight line away from me. Still, a moving target is a

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moving target. With them soon out of sight, I began to shadow the three women, still using them as bait to leave a trail. I figured the slavers weren't thinking as I was. They probably figured we'd do a little damage and killing before we escaped ourselves. If they followed the obvious trail, I'd be there in their way until only one slaver remained to take me to where I was captured. It would be another day, perhaps two, before they fully understood what was really happening. The freed slaves were freeing others and killing slaver families. Why let your enemies grow stronger? Then they had instructions, given to them as suggestions, to take the fight deeper into slaver territory to cover for the women who would escape and return home to raise children who would grow into adults and continue to resist slavery. As long as the freed male slaves continued to strike deeper into slaver territory, their women had a decent chance of escape to their original homes. It was an idea I suggested which was meant to strike fear into the slavers' hearts. It would help restore some balance of strength between the two sides so that maybe slavery might be abolished someday soon as a matter of practical detente. I was able to follow the tracks of the women quite easily. I wish that everything was good news, but one was killed by a wild animal not long after they escaped the homestead. The other two were free and still going home. At least the one woman died as a free woman, small consolation that it was. I passed her body, leaving it undisturbed and as little of a trail as I could manage. It wasn't long before I spotted the other two women and began to shadow them. When it turned dark, I got in front of them and lit a fire. As soon as the campfire was going, I melted into the shadows and waited in ambush. *** The two women had sense not to seek the campfire. I'm sure they were a little cold, but it couldn't have been too bad on them since they'd been kept as naked slaves long enough to learn how to speak English as well as I. I didn't know how they dressed, if they did, in their homeland. That hardly mattered. I kept watch on the campfire and kept my ears open. It was almost an hour later when a small group of riders went in to capture whoever they thought was camped there. They found out soon enough that it was an ambush when I shot three of them dead, using some of the same arrows I used earlier and recovered before tracking the women. The rest scattered away from the campfire in panic. At least one of them was wounded with an arrow in his shoulder. Another was dumped onto the campfire by his horse in the confusion. He was howling in pain in the darkness, before he managed to put his flames out and

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escape with the others. Evidently, his friends killed him sometime later in fear of him giving away their position in the darkness. I'm guessing at that because I heard him suddenly yell "No!" followed by a scream. Then there wasn't anymore howling of pain. I don't think they knocked him unconscious. As far as I could tell, the two slavers who captured me were in that group. Because of that, I was interested in them. I waited in the darkness for the campfire I started to go out. *** About two hours later, there was barely an ember alive in that small campfire. It was then that I crept up on it and retrieved some of my arrows. I didn't have an unlimited supply of those. It was too bad that one of the men rode away with one earlier in the day and another a few hours earlier in the night. I would miss having those two arrows, so it was important that I recover the others. Once I had them, I moved back into the darkness away from the few still glowing embers. I kept going in the direction I expected the women to go. I wanted to be able to cover them in the morning from those riders who were still alive and probably looking for more than just to recapture anyone. By now, the slavers would want blood spilled. There would be blood spilled, but I intended for it to be theirs. *** The sky began to lighten from black to grey. Of course, it would remain grey all day, but there was nothing anyone could do about that. For myself, I was used to the chill of the morning as well, considering how little I earlier had to cloth myself with. Though I managed to catch a little sleep and rest during the night, I was still somewhat tired as I forced myself into alertness. I wanted to spot the men and women first. I hoped that I would spot the women before the men did. I had a better idea of where everyone was than did anyone else at the time. I fully expected to have the upper hand despite the odds. With the light, I checked the recovered arrows to be sure they were usable without any repairs. One was quickly relegated to close in work unless I had an opportunity to fix the stabilizer feathers so its flight would be true. The rest were fine. I held my bow and arrows loosely ready to use while I quickly rechecked my blanket to make sure I was hidden. The daylight favored them more than me. I stood out too well against the grey landscape. The night was when I had all the advantages. *** About an hour later, I was able to hear both groups approaching. Doubtless, the riders couldn't hear the women over their own louder noise. Still, I could hear them both from my position and it didn't bode well for the women. They would probably be exposed during the fight. There was little I

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could do than what I'd already planned on doing. Give them some cover and another chance to complete their escape. Though the darkness the previous night had favored me, I wasn't able to get an accurate count of how many riders there were. With daylight, I could. It wasn't at all good for the women or myself. Still, I was going to go on with my plan. If things worked out well, I'd have to knife the last two. I don't believe they knew how to fight in hand-to-hand combat without having a rope around their opponent and outnumbering him by six to one. I do. That was enough reason for me to risk what I was going ahead with. Slowly, both came into sight and I was ready. The riders were talking and looking mostly at the ground. Their pace was slow so they could track. I got off two arrows before they knew they were under attack. Even then, they somehow looked in the wrong direction and saw the women, instead. Evidently, the motion of the women was what caught their eyes. They started towards the women, giving me time enough for two more shots. I missed with one of the last two shots. That left three of them to deal with instead of two. I still had the one not-so-good arrow and drew it, hoping I could either hit a horse or rider with it when they got closer. Either one would be acceptable to me. Despite the two last arrows, the men still hadn't seen me. Then I remembered that I was hidden. Evidently too well hidden, so they were going for the only target they could see. With that in mind, I stepped out of my blind with my bow and remaining arrow. "Over here, slavers!" I hollered. "Fight someone who knows how to fight!" That got their attention. They pulled up short of the women and changed course towards me. The women had the smarts to head for concealment themselves. I put them out of my mind. If I allowed myself to worry about them, I might as well surrender or cut my own throat. I had to be concerned with saving only one person at that moment. Myself. I only had to worry about three others. Them. They were almost upon me with their charging steeds when I released my last arrow and leaped out of the way. I hit a horse, but in so doing, I got the lead horse, throwing its rider and one other to the ground. I was up and running before they were. I was on one of them with my knife before he could get to his feet. He never got to his feet. I grabbed him by his hair and slit his throat before releasing him to die. The other fallen rider staggered to his feet and was trying to arm himself when I launched myself at him. He went down from my body block. His knife went flying and mine drove into his chest as his scared eyes looked at me. I leaped off him, giving my attention to the other rider who was turning to charge back at me. He was calculating the odds already, I could

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see. It was easy to tell that the other two men were dead and I wasn't. Defiantly, I held out one hand and waved him towards me with a few flicks of my fingers. He gouged his horse into another charge straight at me. I did what can only be described as stupid, but the only thing I could think of at the time. I dropped to the ground and jabbed my legs between the front legs of the charging horse. I twisted as if I was tripping a human. The effect was much the same, despite the hoof which clipped my leg. The horse went over in a trip, dumping the rider. Even as the horse was flipping over, I was yanking back my legs so I wouldn't receive anymore injury than the hoof clip. With the horse and rider dumped, I had time to get up and bear in on the rider. The horse was between us, giving him just enough time to stagger to his feet and draw his own knife. The horse managed to stumble to its feet and stagger away, leaving the two of us facing each other. I couldn't have hoped for more. It was Gerog! "Gerog, you're going to pay for what you did!" I said with as much venom as I could put in my voice. "You? You're not going to make me pay!" Gerog replied. I replied, "Yes, you shall pay and slowly for everything, not just for what you did to me. I've already taken the women at your house. I should have had them dragged outside for you to see instead of leaving them in the house to burn with it. I might not have any balls, but I still raped your daughters!" He looked at me with hatred, the kind that would cause him to make mistakes. He lunged and I clipped him with one hand, sending him sprawling. I wheeled about and kept him in sight as he got to his feet in a hurry, thinking I would be rushing him. "Your daughters cried and pleaded. I took both of them anyway and then slit their throats for your wife to see. They were both dead before she finally bled to death," I said. He lunged again as his hatred and anger built. I kicked at him, connecting with his testicles beneath his clothes. As he doubled up, I snatched his knife from him. I put my own away and held his knife at the ready. "I'd have taken your wife as well, but she was an old hag," I said as further insult while moving to the side of him. He began to straighten up. I used that moment to reach behind him and slip his own knife between him and his belt to part it. His pants fell to his knees, making him trip to the ground as he tried to turn and face me. "She begged and pleaded, too, but she didn't deserve mercy anymore than you." With that said, I kicked upwards into his face. He went sprawling backwards. As I thought, he and the others had no idea of how to fight hand-to-hand. I was about to take his testicles when I

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had a better idea. I reached down, grabbed his penis, and sliced it off at the root, so to speak. "Try to make love to a woman with that, stubby," I said. He grasped at his wound trying to stop the bleeding. I stepped away from him and prepared a small fire. He was crying that he was bleeding to death the whole while as blood spurted into the air despite his efforts to stop it. When I had a small branch burning, I took hold of it and cauterized his wound. I think he bit his tongue. Guess that's because I didn't warn him to grit his teeth. I burnt his hands some as well. I guess I forgot to tell him to move them first. So, I'm a bastard or a son-of-a-bitch for treating him that way. I wanted him to pay for his cruelty. Besides, I was going to kill him later, anyway. I said, "All right, get on your feet! You're going to show me where you captured me." "Why?" he said. I answered, "Because I want to go home and I'm lost. You can either show me the way or I'll start killing every slaver I can find. Every slaver's daughter will wind up raped and dead. You've got a chance to be a hero and all you have to do is show me where you captured me. Now, get on your feet!" I left him little choice. A few kicks to the ribs also helped. Hey, at least, he had a fighting chance. He wasn't chained down when I kicked him. He had a lot more of a chance than I did at first. I tried to be peaceful. It didn't work, so now I was using what he understood. I took the time to collect my arrows from the dead men and made sure I collected the rest of my gear first. Then I took hold of one of the horses and put my gear on it. There was no need for me to carry it and watch him when I had a horse to carry part of the load. "All right, lead the way," I said. *** I wasn't aware that I was carried on the back of one of the horses. It was a lot farther than I thought. I wasn't captured on his property, either. We reached the river and had to cross it the next day into the territory of the people they were enslaving. My captor was a liar in addition to being a slaver. He was making money by capturing free men and claiming they were trespassers to bypass his own people's laws. Had I been of his world, I probably wouldn't have spoken his language in the first place to find out. If I had spoken the language and been aware of the laws, I probably would have been withdrawn from auction and then been killed. Anyway, that last part, that's just speculation on my part. With him walking, we didn't reach the place until another day later. When he showed me the area, I took a few moments to adjust to everything.

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When I found the breast plate and skirt, I knew then I was in the right place. That's when I killed him. I went ahead and put my old clothing back on. It had served me well before. It might again. Anyway, I wasn't as naked as before and I didn't have a constant reminder of not being whole. I went ahead and made a new campsite. It was well-hidden, especially with the grey blanket to help camouflage it. A person could practically be standing right next to it and still not see it. With the natural rocks I placed part of my campsite on, I hoped not to be leaving any well-worn trails leading into it. I had no idea how long it would take me to find another Winker opening. *** It took me a few days to get back to my schedule of staying up nights and sleeping during the day. During that time, I cooked only at sunrise, since I didn't want to chance keeping any meat uncooked for a day. I hunted only at night. What I cooked in the morning, I ate. The scraps went out immediately as the last thing I did before getting a drink and going to sleep. Fortunately, I carried the scraps out fairly far so they didn't attract any predators during the day. Foraging for fruits and vegetables took place just before sunset. At least, they weren't getting wilted or dried out overnight. So, most of the time, I had the advantage of fresh fruit and vegetables. What I didn't eat of them became part of my stockpile of reserves. Who says that you can't learn new tricks? Or am I confusing that with an Earth joke about prostitutes? Of course, all this time I was paying strict attention to my security. I knew I was in a dangerous world. Being captured to be a slave wasn't my idea of a fun time. Losing my nuts wasn't part of having a fun time, either. Showing my bad side was especially not part of having a fun time, especially for those to whom I directed it at. I'm a great believer in not leaving anyone behind to grow up and take revenge, especially when I'm the one who was wronged in the first place. I don't mean that I'm a perfect person. You already know that I'm not. I admit that. I'm just not. Anyway, I got back onto my schedule and began searching once more for a Winker. More than once, I awoke during the day hearing voices not far from my hidden camp. More than once during the night, I heard or spotted people moving about the countryside while I searched. Constantly, I kept security as my primary concern. *** It was close to a month later when I spotted more smoke coming from far across the river. Doubtless, the former slaves were still pressing their former masters hard against the wall. I didn't blame them. If anything, I was on their side. However, I wanted to go home and I hoped to be whole again. I

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felt sure that it was possible. That night I found the Winker. I looked at the other side. It wasn't grey like my current world and it wasn't blue like the uninhabited one I left. It wasn't my world either, but it was a different world, so I decided to chance it. I ran back for my gear and got back in time to find the Winker before it got too far away. I stepped through.

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Chapter 5 Almost immediately, I couldn't breathe and fell to the ground. I mean, I could breathe, yet it wasn't doing me any good. Out of curiosity, I lifted my skirt. One thing was sure, I was still a man and I was whole again. However, that didn't do me any good unless I could breathe. The Winker opening was still moving away from me. I could just barely see it then. I gathered my strength and got to my feet. I staggered towards the Winker opening trying to catch up to it and step back through. It seemed to be moving faster than I could. It was then that I realized I was blacking out. If I did, then I was probably going to die. There seemed to be little choice. It was beginning to pass over a small pond or lake. I didn't care if I got wet or not. I had to reach the Winker. I staggered along like a drunk, reaching out for it as if I could grab hold and stop it just long enough to step through. The water splashed around my ankles while the mud threatened to slow me down more. I dropped my gear, trying to give all my strength to my legs while my brain was being starved of oxygen. I reached out for the Winker and missed to fall down in the water. Suddenly, I could breathe. I didn't know what was happening, but I took in the air with grateful lungs and stood back up to try again for the Winker. Then I couldn't breathe. The lungful of air was just barely sustaining me as I tried again to reach the Winker. Once more, I was in danger of blacking out. I stumbled and fell once more into deeper water which threatened to drown me. Just what I needed I thought as I saw the surface of the water rushing up to me, though it was really me falling into it. Again, I could breathe! That's when it hit me that I was breathing while submerged. I held my breath and stood up easily and looked at my reflection in the water, despite the reflection being somewhat broken by the dripping drops falling from me. I gazed at my image and saw gills. Gills? I was a merman? An amphibian? I wasn't sure, but I did know I had to return to the water in order to breathe. As I floated in, rather under, the water, I let my thoughts ramble for a moment before I began to focus in on my predicament. First of all, I was still a man, but I had gills. I had to be in water in order to breathe. Obviously, I wasn't going to be cooking my meals underwater. What I ate was going to have to be raw or I'd have to figure out some way of cooking without exposing myself to suffocation from lack of oxygen. There might have been tons of oxygen in the atmosphere, but I couldn't breathe it directly. I also wasn't going to be able to take all my gear with me. What little I could take would have to be whatever wouldn't encumber me. I did know that I had some weapons which I would like to take with me to the next

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world, but until I found another Winker, I would have to hope my gear stayed where I put it. I wouldn't be able to do much more than check on it occasionally. I did know my body was hungry. It wanted food and I did have food in my gear. I worked my way back to my gear, took one of the boots filled with food and began to eat as much as I could. While I ate, underwater of course, I removed the breast plate and skirt. Those went on shore with my other gear. I wasn't sure where and how I would sleep. I did know I needed protection. I took some of the rope I had and used it to make a simple belt around my waist. From it, I dangled one of my knives. The others were to stay with my gear. If that was undisturbed, then I would have someplace to go should I need a replacement weapon. I also took a little more stock of myself. The sky was a mixture of reds and blues. I guessed there were different layers of stuff in the atmosphere to cause that. I looked at myself again closely and discovered I was a mixture of blue and silver, quite similar to some fish on Earth. My feet were slowly becoming webbed and wider. Without the skirt, I noticed I was quite a bit more manly than on the previous world. That was an improvement that I liked, not that I would be able to use it, I figured. My body was in the process of streamlining itself some. I still had arms and hands. They were a bit more muscular and not getting very webbed as far as I could tell. Of course, a few more days on this world would tell the story. My teeth felt a little more sharper to my tongue. I held my breath and surfaced to take another look. In my reflection, my teeth were definitely becoming more canine at the front. Probably that was a necessity for my survival on this world. My hair was almost back to its original length, so it wasn't in my way. While I stood there, I quickly took some more of my food supply and submerged once more to eat it leisurely. I wasn't sure what I might have to face in the way of predators on this world. Being a water-dwelling creature now meant I had new circumstances to consider. How would I protect myself while sleeping? Would I ever sleep? How much food would I need to intake each day for my survival? These were things I needed to know and didn't have the answers to. *** By the second day, my feet were fully webbed. My hands were close to half webbed. It was a good thing I wasn't wearing any rings. I was nearly half-through my stockpile of food reserves. I wasn't hungry but I wasn't exploring either. I was staying close to my gear for the time being. *** On the third day, I began to explore and hunt. I hadn't had any sleep, answering one of my questions. Not needing any sleep meant I could explore just about the entire time. I wondered if Winkers ever went into the water? I

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saw one bury itself in the dirt, so why not into the water. It would, of course, make perfect sense for them to do so. There were a number of familiar looking fish, so my guess at that time was yes. That, of course, left me with the problem of how to get to my gear and back to a Winker if I found one underwater. Would I be able to handle everything underwater? Once I passed through, would I drown? More questions seemed to present themselves than did answers. *** By the fifth day, I was eating raw fish without much difficulty. My other food reserves were completely gone, so there was no need to constantly stay near my gear. After all, if I ran into any other people who were aquatic, I didn't want them to discover it. My hands didn't web more than halfway up my fingers. I could still handle my knife and use it quite well underwater, I discovered. I swam a great deal better than ever before. I was exploring my pond which wasn't a pond at all. It was more or less an inlet with a bottle neck opening that led to a larger lake. My pond was fed by a small stream. The pond fed the lake. That went to a river. Those things I managed to learn gradually as I occasionally surfaced to take a good look at the topography. Inside the lake, I discovered there were other aquatic people. I had an advantage over them. I had a knife. For them to have such a weapon would be like giving fire to a stone age man. It was truly power that I possessed since they had no ways or means to make such a thing. For the most part, I didn't use my knife. I could usually ambush a fish for my meal and did. As far as the aquatic people, I did my best to avoid them. They didn't seem interested in me and that was good as far as I was concerned. Most of the time I simply stayed in my pond where it was quiet and I was generally alone. *** Constantly, I searched for another Winker. It stood to reason that I wanted to get home. Well, the only way for me to go home was to find another Winker. Since I last saw a Winker moving over my pond, I searched my pond area mostly. It was during the second week that my pond was suddenly invaded. Maybe that's the wrong word. I was visited by several of the aquatic people seeking refuge against one of the underwater predators. They were more afraid of it than of me. I didn't know the purpose of their visit at the time, though. They still ignored me, not that I looked much different from them. Aside from the rope belt with my knife, I looked about the same. Okay, I was better hung than the men who were in the group of refugees. That much was very obvious. I'll admit it. I checked out the competition.

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Face it. If you're in a new and unusual situation as I was, wouldn't you want to experiment to find out how it felt there? Certainly, I wanted to know. Part of it, to be truthful, was in wanting to know if what I recovered was fully functional. So, I had some selfish ideas. Remember, I told you I'm not a perfect person. Far from it. I have my faults. Plenty of them to tell the truth. They left after a few hours when someone gave an all clear. It was a sound I had heard before, but not realized to be their language. Now, that was something I didn't know. I wasn't even sure I could talk with any of them. Despite my education and experience, I was mute as far as these people went and probably very dumb. I had no real experience in living underwater. I wasn't trying to accumulate any beyond my basic needs, either. I wanted to go home. *** It was two days later when I chased a fish which I wanted to eat out of my pond into the larger lake. The fish swam into the waiting hands of a young woman. For an aquatic woman, she was gorgeous. Her beauty was natural. She wore no makeup. Where was she going to get waterproof makeup anyway? I figured that the fish was now hers. She caught it fair and square from ambush as I normally did. I wanted no arguments and there were more fish in the lake. I started to swim away, but she caught up with me and offered the fish to me anyway. She made some sounds which I was loathe to try to repeat. For the hell of it, I surfaced for just a second. She followed me and continued to speak. On the surface, her voice was beautiful. It was English! English with a few variations and added sounds, of course. Finally, I could speak to her and anyone else. We submerged again for a moment before sticking our heads up again. It took a little practice, but it was possible to get our mouths out of the water to talk while keeping our gills submerged. Of course, we couldn't look at each other then, but to be able to talk with someone was glorious. I didn't realize then how much I missed being able to talk with someone. Her first line was incredibly corny. "You're not from around here," she said. I replied, "No, I'm not. In fact, I'm very new here. I didn't even know anyone else spoke my language. I couldn't understand everything underwater." "Where are you from?" she asked. "I'm not really sure if I can explain that," I replied. "I don't want you to think that I'm a liar or a story-teller. I truthfully don't even know which direction it is from here to where I came from." "You're lost?" she said. "You could say that," I replied.

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She then asked, "You were chasing this fish, weren't you?" "I was, but you ambushed it fairly, so it's yours," I answered. "You're a strong swimmer. You would have caught it eventually. It's yours rightfully," she said. She offered me the fish. "We could share," I countered. She said, "Yes, we could. We could share a lot between us." Well, needless to say, we did share that fish and each other. Mind you, I wasn't quite sure how to go about making love underwater. She taught me that along with some of the underwater sounds I heard before. I was surprised to learn that the one sound was an alarm of danger when a predator entered from the river into our lake. We talked some more. "Was anyone hurt?" I asked. "Hurt? Don't you mean eaten?" she asked. "Oh, of course. Yes, that's what I meant," I replied. "No. Some of us sought out your pond and others took refuge in the caves where it couldn't enter. Were it smaller, it probably could have entered either, but it was one of the larger of its kind," she said. From what she described, it was a terrible fish of sorts with teeth and a very large mouth to go along with a very large appetite. "You don't have any weapons?" I asked. "Weapons?" she asked. I realized then how stupid my question sounded. I had to explain. "Yes, a weapon is a tool you and your people could use to fight off the fish with. Kill it before it can eat any of your people. With enough weapons, you could defend your lake against any and all who enter it." "Tell me more. What do these weapons look like?" she asked. I showed her my knife. I said, "This is one, but you would probably want something more substantial than a knife." "Knife," she said, looking at the metal knife I showed her. She ran her finger along the edge, cutting herself in the process. "It's sharp like teeth!" she exclaimed. "Yes, it is. Stay with me awhile. I will make you a suitable weapon called a spear. Perhaps your people will figure out how to make more," I said. "How is that knife made?" she asked. I said, "With fire." "Fire?" she asked. Of course, I was being stupid again. Of course, she wasn't aware of what fire was. If her people came from any other worlds, then they had forgotten through the generations about what fire was and about its uses. It would be very difficult for them to make one and use it, to say the least. "Come with me, anyway," I said as I began to swim back to my pond. When we got to my pond, I said, "I'm going out for a few moments. I'll

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be back." "Out? But you'll die!" she said. I smiled and said, "No, I promise I won't die. I won't stay out long enough to die." She wanted to hold me back to protect me from danger, but she could see I was unafraid. She seemed to be able to tell that I knew something which she didn't. I said, "I'll hold my breath while I get what I need and be right back with it." I went as close to shore as possible, looked once to see where some small trees were before leaving the water, took a deep breath through my gills, and then exited the water. I sensed that she popped her head out, holding her breath as well, so she could watch. I went over to one of the small trees and quickly used the knife to slash away at the base of the tree. I was almost about to pass out when I felled the tree, grabbed it, and ran back to the water dragging it along behind me. Once in the water, she said, "That's a tree. Where is the weapon?" "This tree will be the weapon," I answered, as I began to trim away the small branches and make the trunk smooth enough to handle. I got rid of the top portion which was too thin to be of use. Then I went about putting a point on it. "Now it is a spear," I said. "You hold it like so and jab with it at whatever is trying to harm you. You always keep it pointed at your enemy like so." I quite enjoyed putting my arms around her while I taught her how to use the spear. She was still quite unsure it could be a weapon. "Okay, let me demonstrate on one of the fish in the lake," I said as I took the spear from her. "You can also use it to help extend your ambush range in catching fish for eating." We left my pond and went back into the lake. Once there, I showed her how the spear could pierce the side of a fish that would have been out of my reach. She squealed with delight. Her squeal brought several others near us. "He has made a weapon. See how it stuck the fish?" she said. I asked, "Anyone care for a fish to eat. We just ate." There was no lack of takers for the free fish. "Can you catch anymore with that?" I was asked. I answered, "Sure. Just stay out of the way. I'll catch another to show how it works." As promised, I demonstrated the spear to them all. There was instant recognition of how it could be used to help them catch food. I gave Myrna the spear afterwards and promised to help others make spears if they either found a suitable piece of wood or I was able to find some myself. Taking Myrna's caution about the presence of large predatory

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fish to heart, I left my pond a little later and found another small tree. I made my own spear with it. To improve its value, I attached one of the arrows to it. I also began thinking about making a spear gun of sorts. Although I wasn't sure how well the bow would stand up to being in the water, I went ahead and tried it a few times. The idea of a bow worked, but I remembered that the water would likely warp it sooner or later along with causing the bowstring to become useless. I really needed another design which would work instead. A metal bow would have been almost perfect, I realized, but we didn't have the ability to mine ore or smelt it, let alone produce the end product I envisioned at first. I had to downgrade my choice of materials drastically. After all, none of us could remain out of the water long enough to do what needed to be done. Getting out of the water a number of times to fetch small trees, I did manage to build up my ability to stay out of the water. Soon I was able to stay out for two, almost three, minutes. That was usually enough time to find, select, and cut down a suitable small tree before running back dragging the prize to the water. My efforts at improving their lot soon got me a lot of attention, especially from the women. Needless to say, I was able to enjoy myself a number of times, validating the functioning of my manhood quite beyond satisfaction. Hell, if I had to be stuck on any world other than my own, that one was quite nice considering. I did think of a few things which they could do for themselves. I thought to have them search for suitable rocks along the bottom of the lake and showed them how to chip away at them and make stone knives of their own. They came up with substitutes for making belts to keep their knives on their persons so they could keep their hands free. It wasn't long before having a belt with a knife attached was the fashion statement of the community. That was perhaps the first thing any of them ever wore in their lives. Once many of the people had spears, I began to teach them how to work in teams, not that they hadn't done so before to hunt fish for their families. What I was teaching them was how to defend themselves as a team with their spears. They didn't quite grasp the concept at first, but they tried, bless them, they tried. *** It was a few weeks later when the alarm went out. I knew what the alarm was now. I hurriedly left my pond grasping my spear. Entering the lake, I soon saw the size of the fish that was threatening the community. We're talking here about a fish twice the size of a buffalo on Earth, perhaps a bit larger. Most of the aquatic people were in hiding and some weren't sure how to defend themselves. I quickly took charge, instructing the people to

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keep their spears pointed at the fish and to surround it. We surrounded the fish which, after getting the point of a spear or two, was quite hesitant about attacking the people in front of it. By then, we were beginning the attack. "Now, charge in from the sides where it can't defend itself!" I commanded. Somehow, we managed a ragged charge and began jabbing and stabbing with our spears. The reaction from the fish was instantaneous when it realized we were hunting it. It burst out from among us and departed quickly, carrying a few spears still sticking out from its sides. There was a lot of sound then from the people around me as they did a cheer or what I took to be one. They had stood up to the fish and won. For once, they knew they could defend themselves and their lake. I then went about telling them how to make defenses that would keep the fish out of their lake entirely so they wouldn't have to always face them down. They were more than interested by then. They wanted to know just how to make their lives more secure. *** It took several weeks for us to gather the material and build a defense in the water where the lake fed the river. It had to keep out the larger fish and let in the smaller ones so they could still eat. I also showed them how to make nets for trapping fish so they wouldn't have to go about chasing or ambushing them. It wasn't too long after that when they were becoming a strong community, capable of withstanding anything which came their way. For myself, I found my time being spent between those projects and the administrations of a number of nubile young women who gave to me of themselves to my heart's content. About the only thing I didn't get was a blow job, as you of Earth call them. I mean, with the sharp teeth the aquatic people possessed, would you want one? It wasn't long after that when I was able to resume my search for a Winker opening. Myrna asked me what I was doing when I seemed to be constantly swimming around looking for nothing at night. Since the time we defeated the fish, I was almost constantly accompanied by one or more of the aquatic people. They were either there as bodyguards or students who wanted to learn from me. I didn't know since I didn't ask. Maybe they were there as both until the defensive wall was built at the river entrance. I told Myrna what I was looking for. She knew exactly what I was talking about. Her people had seen them and were quite afraid of them because one or more of their people had died in one. "How did they die?" I asked. "They drowned," she replied. "How do you know they drowned? Did they come back or what?" I

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asked. She said, "They couldn't get all the way through. When we pulled them back out they were dead. I can show you where it happened." "Show me, then. I want to see," I said. "You won't try to go through it?" she asked. "You mean it's still there?" I asked incredulously. "Yes, there is one that is in one place near the caves," she replied. I said, "I want to see it." It took a little convincing to get Myrna to show me where it was at. She took me to the location and, sure enough, it was still there. I looked at the Winker opening and could understand how come some of her people had died trying to get through it. Part of the Winker opening was blocked by rock. There was just barely any room to squeeze through it. Maybe. Those who had tried had become stuck and I presumed they had changed partly on the other side. Without their gills, they drowned. I watched the Winker for a long time, making a mark near it and constantly rechecking it. It took most of the day for me to finally realize it was perhaps the slowest moving Winker I would ever see. Unfortunately, it was moving so that the opening was getting tighter and tighter. If I was to escape to another world, then every hour I delayed in using it increased my chances for failure. I swam back to my pond and retrieved all my gear. Most of it would probably be of use in the next world, I was fairly certain. I used the blanket to bundle everything together and decided to leave one knife with the aquatic people for use in making more spears. It was considerably better and more reliable than their stone knives and stone-tipped spears, another improvement I showed them how to make. Rather than enter the Winker head first as everyone who failed had tried to do, I decided to go feet first. It would give me the maximum chances for success. If I couldn't make it through, then I could still be pulled back alive. I had Myrna stand by with my gear to pass it through to me if I succeeded. I gave her a knife to show my appreciation of her for showing me the location of the Winker. Then I slowly began to enter the Winker opening feet first. I could feel changes happening to me when I was about halfway into the Winker opening. Fortunately, they were only to my lower half of my body. One thing I could tell, looking down, was that I was going to be female again. I don't think Myrna could see the changes taking place. It was a very tight fit. My shoulders were the hardest part to get through. However, going feet first turned out to be the correct solution as I adjusted the position of my arms, took a deep breath, held it, and went on through. Only my hands were

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still in Myrna's world and she passed my gear to me quickly. I couldn't stay there to wave bye. I swam for the surface and gasped for breath when I reached it. I was an air breather again. I guess I'm just particular about my body.

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Chapter 6 I was also quite far from shore. I had to make some decisions about what I could keep and what I had to dump. My weapons, skirt, and breast plate, I kept. The blanket and boots, I had to dump. It wasn't easy treading water while putting on stuff before I lost it all. I did manage, however. Then I looked around to get my bearings once more and struck out for the nearest shore. It was quite some time later before I emerged from the lake, tired, more hungry than usual, and wondering what dangers I faced in the world. My skin was a bright pink, not exactly the kind that would be easy to hide. I would find out later just how difficult it would be for me to hide. The sky was blue and a few clouds hovered above. From what I knew of different worlds, it appeared that it would be a nice day. The vegetation was green, quite much like that of Earth. By that, I mean that it was multiple shades of green varying by plant species. My bow was quite wet and useless at the moment. I only had three arrows, having left one behind on a spear. I hoped that the aquatic people would someday be able to make spear guns. If so, they would become supreme on their world. I still had two knives. I used one of them to cut down a stout, though small, tree. It soon became my spear and new stick. I kind of missed my old stick, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Moving cautiously, aware that I didn't know what the predators of that new world looked like, I began to forage for food to feed my ravenous appetite. Already, I could feel my hair growing and my breasts enlarging. It wasn't long before I realized I would be nearly as voluptuous as I had been before as queen of that other world. My hair was changing color as well. It was becoming white. Using my knowledge of foraging for food, I was soon enjoying the fruit and vegetables of my new world. At the same time, I was scouting for materials to build a fortified campsite with and watching for any Winkers, though I knew I'd have a better chance of finding them during the night. It was only then that I realized I had crossed over from a world in light to another in light. Had it not been for Myrna's assistance, I wouldn't have ever found that particular Winker. Having been up for days and nights on end, not needing sleep, I knew my body was soon going to demand some serious rest. I hurried about my task to build a barricade to shelter myself with. *** It was close to five days later when my body stopped changing. I began to switch my schedule to that of being up during the night. That's when I discovered I glowed in the dark. I was horrified to discover that. What it meant to me was that I was

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always going to be quite visible to just about anyone and everyone while going about at night to search out a Winker opening. The good thing was that it didn't matter if I had a fire going at night. I couldn't give away my position anymore than I already was. For that reason, I began to sharpen my hunting skills back up, making allowances for my glow in the dark appearance. It was then that I was glad I hadn't discarded the bow and three arrows. I went about making more arrows, even though they would be little more than pointed sticks. I would use them for most of my hunting and save the good arrows for defense. It wasn't very long after that when I was enjoying cooked meat in my diet once more. *** I wasn't to discover something else until later. I should have realized it when some of the animals I hunted glowed as I did and some didn't. The same was true of the people, it turned out. The men on that world didn't glow. Only the women did. I was searching for a Winker when I felt myself tackled and thrown to the ground. Before I could react to my strong attacker, I felt myself penetrated and raped. I mean, he did a job on me. He went at me until he came. There was little I could do about it because of his weight and my position. He caught me from behind and I was on my stomach. Had he been intent on killing me, he probably could have done so. As it was, he managed to rip off my skirt and take me to his heart's content. Then he was gone almost as quickly as it happened. On Earth you would have called it "Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am." It was about like that for me on that world. I must admit he moved very stealthily and was able to get to me without me hearing or seeing him. I never found my skirt afterwards, either. It just meant that there was more of me to glow in the dark than before. *** I later caught sight of one of the men of that world. They were, almost without exception, large men with lots of muscles, much more than I had as a woman. The men seemed to prowl about at night as did the women, I was to discover. I didn't know that until after I was raped that first time. I guess that having glow in the dark skin was a way for the men to find the women seeing as I hadn't responded to any of their mating calls. The people were quite stone age in their development. They wore little or nothing, particularly the women. If a woman managed to find something to wear, she didn't get to keep it for very long. The next man to accost her usually saw to that. However, there was a plus side. The men did more than just rape the women. They kept all the large predators out of their territory. I managed to observe a male of that race, more than once, go head to head with one of

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the large predators. The man won in each case. They were brave and determined. They weren't stupid, either. They knew how to use rocks and did. They also knew how to perform as a team, something essential if one of them is going to be busy raping a woman. After all, someone has to keep the area secured if you don't want to be disturbed. That's part of how I found out that I had several men who had adopted me as their woman. There were definitely three, maybe four of them, who watched out for me and even chased some smaller game my way so I could have fresh meat to cook. However, when they did, one of them inevitably came for me later expecting payment in return. Since I hadn't responded to any mating calls, that meant rape. Well, I didn't really understand their language and I guess it wasn't rape to them at all. It was survival of the species. Anyway, I must have really pleased my benefactors since I found myself quite unable to keep from responding to them while being raped, especially if I was thrown onto my back. Then it was as if I had to have them. I guess that was part of what kept me from attacking that first man to take me. I mean, I really responded to them with the best moves that any woman had ever thrown my way before. Consequently, I had a good diet of meat, fruit, and vegetables. They were even collecting them for me and leaving them outside my campsite. I must admit they respected me while I was within my barricade, not that they couldn't have easily torn it open and come in. Not once did they try to take any of my weapons, even when they saw how much better those were than their rocks. *** I continued to search for a Winker. Partly because I still wanted to get back home. Partly because I didn't want to remain too long and become pregnant. They were too strong for me to resist, though they were being helpful, otherwise. That first time with one of them also gave me more information about myself. When I became a woman again, I was a virgin once more. That first time had really hurt. I did find a few small Winkers early on, while I searched, but they were only suitable for gazing through to other worlds. I think I saw Earth once before I reached it from that world, though it wasn't to Earth that I eventually escaped. *** It was while I was responding to one of the men that I finally spotted one of the larger Winkers. It took me a while to realize that and I did my best to keep track of it while I was on the bottom. When the male finally finished, I hurriedly jumped up and ran for it. I had to make a leaping dive to get in it and to the next world.

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Chapter 7 Almost instantly, I was cold. My skin was beginning to change in texture and color. I was fortunate that I had a small bag by then, made from the hide of a small animal on the previous world, with fruits and vegetables in it. I began to eat quickly so that any change could take place as soon as possible. At the same time, I surveyed my surroundings. It was another world with a yellow sky. The vegetation was of varied shades of green, a more common occurrence, I was to discover, among all the worlds than any other color. As I ate, I continued to check my surroundings for danger and occasionally to see what changes I was going through. My skin was becoming scaly like a reptile and I was beginning to become banded in color. I was a rainbow, of sorts, consisting of alternating bands of blue and red. My toenails began to become claws. I was still female, to my disillusionment, and a virgin again. My teeth began to become sharp once more as when I was an aquatic person. I almost didn't notice that I was growing a tail down my back side. Fortunately, by the time I finished changing, it wasn't very long at all. It only hung down to about my knees. I also still had breasts. Thankfully, only two. I still had my weapons. I began immediately to locate a suitable campsite and go through everything I had done before. After all, I was getting quite good at survival now. It turned out I would need those skills. My species was hunted on that world for, consequently, its hides. *** I was, of course, being cautious as a matter of routine security. Not knowing how I would be received, it was important to me that I spot anyone else first if that was at all possible. Being reptilian had some disadvantages. My ears had covered over and my keen hearing was handicapped somewhat. My eyesight was still fine, so I relied on it a lot and moved more cautiously than ever. That was how and when I was able to spot someone similar to me in race being hunted and killed before being skinned. I was, of course, sickened by the sight of seeing an intelligent person being killed for his hide. At least, I made the assumption that he was intelligent. I turned out to be right. Anyway, I reacted to that with anger. You know, that unpleasant side of me? I used my bow and good arrows to kill those men from that other race just after they finished skinning the reptilian man. The only reason for that was that I had to get closer to them in order to attack. When I finished killing them, I took some of their weapons and recovered my arrows. Mind you, it's not easy using a bow and arrow when you have claws protruding out of your fingers. Likely, that was the reason for little development among the reptilian people beyond language.

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It was at that same time that I discovered the reptilian people usually took to the water for refuge from the other race. At the same time, I discovered that my lung capacity would allow me to stay under for a considerable length of time. I should have realized that before since I had some webbing between my toes and fingers, though not much. Anyway, the dead reptilian man had been trying to get to the water when he was killed by those spear wielding men. The other race was barely more advanced than the reptilian race on that world. The other race did have fire and the start of metallurgy Their spears were pointed in bronze. They had clothing as well. Well, I guess you could say they were much more advanced actually. Their green skin gave them an advantage while hunting, but they seemed to have forgotten that their clothing gave them away since they wore clothing that wasn't green. I think that if they either switched to wearing green clothing or simply went nude, they might have been able to wipe out the other race. While I was gathering their weapons, another reptilian man exited the nearby water the dead reptilian man was running for. He spoke to me. "You killed them?" he asked. "Yes, I did. It is not right for those men to kill intelligent people of another race for their hides," I replied. "You are most beautiful. And brave. You know how to use their weapons?" he said. I avoided his come on line and kept to business. After all, I wasn't looking for a mate and I sure didn't want to end up as a handbag. I still wanted to get home. And become a man, again. "Yes, I know how to use their weapons and to make more," I replied. "Maybe if we stand up to them, they will cease their ways of hunting you down." It took a little bit of explanation to make my point clear to him. For the aggressive looking claws we had and our scaly, almost armored, bodies, it was quite a surprise to learn that my race on that world was pacifistic. They wanted to harm no one. That was all the more reason for that reptilian male being surprised by my actions in killing those three men of the other race. *** I went with him and met some others of our race on that world. It was hard getting my point across to them that you can't have peace and freedom unless you're willing to earn them by fighting. "But it is wrong to kill when it's not for food," one exclaimed. "Is it wrong to defend one's life against a predatory animal?" I asked. "No, but those are not animals." "They're behaving as animals. There is no difference in that regards.

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Either they are an intelligent race who can be traded and socialized with or they are little more than smart, dangerous animals. Do you simply go into the teeth of the predators and give up your rights? Or do you do your best to remain alive by fighting or escaping?" I asked. Little by little, I broke down some of their arguments, always returning to the same key point that the other race would have to change its behavior and attitude or perish. They had no more right to be the dominant race than ours. They would either have to share the power or face the same fate they were decreeing for the reptilian people. Some of the reptilian people thought I also meant skinning the other race, but I soon made my point that I was talking about the right to live, not the skinning issue, though that was still important. The skinning would have to cease, even of deceased reptilian people who sometimes died of natural causes, though old age was rarely one of those under the circumstances. *** Of course, my actions in killing the three men who skinned that dead reptilian male had already started events moving on the other side. I don't know what the content of their discussions were like or what other motions they went through. However, there was a hunting party moving about when I returned to my area to renew my search for a Winker. *** I spotted the hunting party just as they spotted me emerging from the water, returning back from my visit. My bow was wet but not unusable. I thought nothing of putting one of my arrows to it when some of the men launched spears at me. I pulled back and released. The arrow went true to its mark, killing one of the men as it buried its shaft in his chest. For those men, this was something different. This was a reptilian person who fought back. Quite a different thing, indeed. They stopped and stared. That was a fatal move on their parts. I took advantage of them being motionless to send another arrow their way. A second man felt my arrow hit him and stared at it sticking through his arm. I had range over them and they quickly realized it. They began running away even though they still outnumbered me and I only had one more good arrow. Of course, they didn't know that. All they saw was me calmly putting another arrow to the bow. I hated losing another arrow. You know, one of the really good ones? However, I was able to recover the other one and some metal-tipped spears and a knife. I began to return to my search area when one of the reptilian males asked me from the safety of the water, "You did not kill them all. Aren't we to do such things?" I replied, "No, I never said we should. I only said we should defend ourselves. That's what I did. Now, if they should put together an army and begin hunting us down to extinction, then we should do the same to them.

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We have advantages they don't have. They can't follow us into the water. Not for very long, anyhow." "Then you think they will put together an army?" he asked. I answered, "I really don't know. They might. We'll see when the time comes. If they do, then we'll do the same. If they leave us to live in peace, we'll treat them likewise. I can't think of a fairer solution than that. By the way, I don't need these spears or the extra knife. Take them to some of our people and let them learn how to use them to defend themselves." "What about that weapon you have? Are there more?" he asked. "More can be made," I replied. "However, I will need the right materials and time to do so. Right now isn't the right time and I don't have the materials. We'll have to rely on weapons we take from the other race." He seemed satisfied with my remarks, took the weapons, and swam away shortly afterwards. I went back to my barricade. I still hadn't the opportunity to begin searching for a Winker on a nightly basis. I was still trying to get my schedule straight. Though my skin no longer glowed in the dark, I soon found out that my eyes did. That wasn't a pleasant thought to know that I was visible as I wandered about the fields at night swinging around a spear to find a Winker opening. *** I should have expected it, but I didn't. I had introduced a new level of technology to the other race. Soon, they were beginning to experiment with making bows, having seen mine in action and coming as close to me afterwards as they dared in order to see my bow again. After all, they already had an arrow in their possession to design more from, if they followed it exactly. Of course, they did. Wouldn't you or I under similar circumstances? It was about two weeks later when they began to use their more primitive style of bow against the reptilian people. There wasn't much accuracy at first, but they did scare the hell out of the reptilians. They soon came to me, clutching some of the arrows shot at them. "Now, they use a weapon like yours. Can you make such for us? They will wipe us out if we do not fight back," one said as she clutched her child as closely as some of the males clutched the arrows shot at them. "Give me those arrows. I will get you bows and more weapons to use against them. There is no need for us to spend our time making them now since we can take some of theirs," I replied. I accepted the handful of arrows with gratitude and put them in the crude quiver that held my last two arrows. Definitely, I felt a lot better about have enough ammunition to stand off a small group of the other human race. Yes, despite our reptilian skin, I felt no less human about myself or them than of any other modified race thus far encountered. Quite possibly, they

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came from somewhere and were more human in appearance there than in their current world. Why shouldn't I have thought of them as human? "I also need something to make my bow waterproof. Oil or wax of some sort. Do any of you know of such material?" I asked. I was told, "Yes, we know of such." "Then bring me enough to coat my bow and arrows. The water can warp them to where they will be no good to use. With wax, preferably, I can make them stand up to the water I'll have to immerse them in for long periods of time for," I commanded, not realizing then that I was now their de facto leader and queen. *** The wax I wanted was brought to me later that day. With some of them helping me, I soon had my bow and all the arrows prepared for water immersion. Then I instructed them. "From now on, collect all arrows they shoot when it's safe to do so. Wax them and store them or bring them to me. I will need some of you to act as bait so I can set a trap to get some of their bows. When we acquire some more bows, I will teach you how to use them better than those others know how. With the knives you now have, you'll be able to make more of your own to pass among the rest of our people. You shall teach them how to use them as well. Soon, we shall be strong enough to face the others in the open and force them to make peace," I said. I had no lack of volunteers. I selected from among the volunteers only the fastest and smallest of the adults. I wanted them fast so they could reach safety quicker and small so they'd be harder to hit. Then I set another group to work on the next improvement. I used my breast plate to explain to them what a shield was like and how to make them. Soon, a group of reptilian men and women left to begin work on making shields. *** With my own preparations complete, I staged my first trap, placing two young males in the open and not too far from deep water. Myself, I was hidden in the water with my breast plate once more on the front of my chest over my breasts. I know, you call them tits on Earth. Like I said before, the language is very common among the worlds, but the words in the language aren't all alike. I hesitate to try to remember all the variations I've heard for some things, though your Earth style of English, as you call our language, is among the worst for having so many words for the same thing. It's as if you had people coming from other worlds and you accepted their choices of words for different things along with continuing to use your own. My bow was at the ready and I clutched an arrow in one hand and

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several with the bow. I would be ready to rise and meet any challenge that might dare to hunt my people. I think it was only then that I was beginning to suspect it depended on what world you came from as to how you turned out when you changed in body. That was, after all, the only theory I could come up with for the diversity in human races. Though I could hold my breath for a long time, I couldn't hold it forever. I soon realized that I needed a blind to give me a better chance. The first time I came up for air, I called to one of the two young males and instructed him to lop off some small branches and toss them out into the water. When I caught one a short while later, I stuck it straight up in the mud so that it looked as if it was growing there. I added a couple more and then waited behind my blind, knowing that I didn't have to submerge unless I had to escape. My bait already knew their jobs and went at them willingly, making quite a bit of noise as if they didn't have a care or threat in the world to worry about. *** It took a while for us to finally get some attention. Several hours, I guess. When the hunters showed up with spears and a few bows, the young reptilian males ran for the water and dove in. They just barely escaped being wounded or killed. I concentrated on the men holding bows as my first targets. I wanted those bows to even up the odds some. I hoped that the other men would retreat when they saw that they were defenseless against me. The first man I shot didn't know what hit him. The others knew, but they didn't know where the arrow came from. By that time, I realized I was probably giving them a lesson in more advanced techniques, but that couldn't be helped. As I realized it, I knew then that I would have to kill all four who were there. Quickly, I took out the second archer and then killed the two men with spears. As I left the water, the two young males followed me. "Is it safe?" one asked. "Yes, for the moment. I'll cover you. Get their bows, arrows, spears, and knives. Hurry and return to the water. You must deliver those to others. Then return and we'll ambush some more of them when they come to find out what happened to these four," I answered. They did as they were told. I returned to the blind and waited for either more hunters or them to arrive there first. *** My volunteers got back first. I imagine that it took the others some time to realize that the hunters hadn't returned. It was late in the day when more showed up and cautiously approached the bodies. My arrows flew quickly among them, taking out all but two who managed to run fast enough

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to evade my aim. I'm not certain if they knew where I was shooting from, but I had to assume they did. The war that was quickly developing was going to get ugly fast. With the additional bows, I set about training a small squad of archers. I had no hope of getting them to be able to shoot accurately with such primitive bows compared to the more advanced bow I possessed. However, firing as a squad would negate part of that effect. I then revealed to them how we would fight. The strongest would handle the bows so they could achieve the best range and killing force behind the arrows. The fastest and smallest would retrieve arrows and bows from those who fell on both sides of any skirmishes. For now, I had to get my people working as a team. Others, who fell in between in speed and strength would be scouts with spears to protect our flanks and give warning of any flanking attacks. They didn't understand that at first. I knew that eventually they would. I also knew where the next battle would be. It would be in the same place where the two ambushes had taken place. Doubtless, the others would come in force to retrieve their fallen and to take a look at my blind. They would probably expect me to be behind it as well. I wouldn't. *** With the new day, the other men came. They were in force as I thought they would be. Close to twenty of them came to the site of the ambush. Some women followed them as well to help carry back the dead while the men protected them. The men approached the water cautiously while pointing at my blind. As soon as their archers were in range, they began to individually fire arrows at the blind, believing I might be behind it. When a number of arrows were fired off by them, reducing their ammunition, that's when my troops reacted almost perfectly. That was fairly amazing considering this was to be their first battle. They rose up as a group from the water slightly to the side of the men and then fired as a squad. Their six arrows went into the group of men and struck targets. Of course, they didn't have all that much accuracy or force and every hit was merely a wound. However, it almost panicked the men right then as my squad calmly fitted another arrow to their bows and let loose once more before the men could react. The men now knew where my squad was and started to react as the second volley of arrows fell among them. Several men were wounded a second time. One was actually killed. The men began returning fire individually, not realizing they were being cut down quickly. Then I fired from my position on the other side. With my accuracy, I took out their archers,

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giving my squad the freedom to keep firing volleys without much return fire for them to fear or duck. They needed confidence right now as well as a victory. They got both. We didn't fire upon the unarmed women who took off running when the first volley landed. We did, however, cut down every man who chose to stay and fight. Only three or four men escaped from that battle. While my squad and I covered the area for any hostile action, the quickest of our people ran to retrieve bows, arrows, spears, and knives. Soon we had enough bows to triple the size of our squad. Now it was time to up the ante. I split the squad into two groups of nine. Now each of them would be to the side or flank of our enemy. I would be in yet another position to further confound the other race. I expected they wouldn't let this go by easily. I was right. We would have to whip their asses but good before they would agree to peace. That was the only conclusion I could see at that point. *** Two days later, the larger battle began to develop. It wouldn't be the last, but it would be the first during which we suffered casualties. We would get a full blooding of our own. We were clearly outnumbered. It appeared the enemy had discussed how we had defeated them before with only seven people. They knew we would be firing in volley, probably from the flank. They also knew I was the most accurate and how to recognize me. After all, I was very distinctively colored, not that there weren't other distinctively colored reptilian people. It's just that I was somewhat different. We were ready for them. We now had our shields and shield bearers to protect our own archers with. They might outnumber us, but we had mobile cover they didn't have. That would be the best thing we had going for us and the only way we kept our casualties down to one wounded and one killed. They came out in numbers to fight, not to retrieve bodies. The bodies were hardly worth recovering anyway. Predators and scavengers had done a job on the bodies, leaving very little to be recovered. Anyway, there were eighty or more of them, mostly archers. They weren't very organized as they walked, moving along in clumps and groups. We let them get within range before our two squads emerged one at a time. The first volley went among them. It was impossible not to hit someone since there were so many of them. As they reacted to the force on one flank, the other squad rose up and fired from the other side, hitting many of them in the back. As the men returned fire in ragged volleys, our shield bearers rose in front of our first squad to give them protection. The shields worked as arrows from the enemy either missed completely or were intercepted from their targets by the shields. That made recovery of some of the arrows quite easy. All one had to do was reach around and pull one loose. That was how

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one of our people was wounded. Volley after volley went back and forth between our people and the enemy. The enemy was clearly getting the worst of the battle as they were standing out in the open and we had shields. I was in a tree with plenty of cover to hide me. I watched for the leaders and shot them as they showed themselves by their orders or actions. Several men became leaders quite unexpectedly and then were shot by me as I kept the enemy disorganized and confused. They finally retreated when there were about thirty bodies littering the landscape. None of them had even spotted me during the battle. Most of the damage had been done by my two squads. As I said, we lost one man. One of the retrievers was swimming to gather arrows which missed the targets. He got too near the surface and was hit by an arrow. He died rather quickly, still clutching the arrows he was retrieving for the squads. His body was turned over to his family with some kind remarks from us about his bravery in the battle. I wasn't aware of their burial rites, so I wasn't able to participate. It wasn't that I didn't want to, but because I knew I had more warriors to train and prepare for the next battle. It might not come for a week or more, but come it would. *** With the weapons we recovered, we outfitted three more squads of archers. We had plenty of shields for them as well. Shields, we had plenty of. I figured the other men would come to the next battle with shields of their own. It wasn't that big of a technology step to figure out how to make them. For that reason, we began to prepare a new surprise. We created traps for the other force. I knew the next battle would see several hundred men on the other side just wanting to kill us all. We would be badly outnumbered for certain. I also expected them to begin learning how to use tactics by then as well. I wouldn't be disappointed. *** My archer squads were arranged in a semi-circle around the area which was the official battleground. We had scouts out to let us know when the enemy was coming. As long as they weren't coming, we practiced and practiced. Others built the traps I instructed them to make. It was something new to them to climb trees as much as they did. I mean, most didn't climb trees much at all, except when they were young, perhaps. Even then, they quickly learned that it wasn't easy to get down. I had to teach them that as well. Anyway, we were ready when our scouts began to pull back, avoiding the traps, to warn us of the enemy's approach. The workers quit making any other traps and retired to the water. I went to my blind, hoping we would be victorious without too high a cost. Seeing anyone, even a reptilian mother,

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grieving for her son was heartbreaking. The enemy were carrying shields to protect themselves with. They weren't as ragged as before in their ranks. I figured someone on their side was emerging as their general. I might soon have a counterpart to contend with. Maybe I shouldn't have been killing those other leaders. With more contention among them, the men would have been less effective. Anyway, it was too late then to change that fact. We let them approach within range as before. The battlefield was fairly clear of the past remains of the enemy, predators and scavengers having done a good job this time with a little help from us. We had moved some of the bodies away so we could work without interruption. I hoped the enemy wouldn't notice that fact. My squads began to pop up out of the water, firing their arrows at the enemy. Their shield bearers popped up just moments later to protect them. One by one, the squads came into play, causing some confusion among the enemy as to where all our positions were. However, they were reacting better than before, using their own shields to cut down their casualties considerably while permitting them to return fire with better effectiveness. When the battle was fully enjoined, we cut the ropes leading to some of the traps. Huge logs swung down from the sides towards their ranks, bowling over many of the enemy. The spikes in the logs skewered a number of the enemy, killing some of them outright. The enemy was almost panicked by those logs. However, their leader, or general, kept them from retreating. He calmly looked around and began dispersing them while having some of the men assist the wounded away from the battle. I could see I had a definite contender to deal with. Despite the loss of a number of shield bearers or shields among the enemy, our logs had cracked or broken a large number of their shields, they still managed to use what was left to protect their archers. All the while they worked on trying to cause enough casualties among my smaller force to make us retreat or lose. Actually, I think they would have preferred that we fight to the last man and woman so they could get back to the way things used to be. With the dispersed forces of the enemy, I began to issue orders to my own squads to concentrate on small units of the enemy, catching them at different angles at the same time so their shields became less effective. We would have eventually wiped them out if they didn't run. That was when one of my flanking scouts reported there was another force moving in on us. Now my people realized why I had flanking scouts in place, even though they hadn't been needed before. Silently, I signaled for one man of each squad to disappear beneath the water and form up as a new squad. Together, we moved underwater to a

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new location to ambush the new force. I don't think the enemy general realized the number of arrows falling among his force was any less at that time. He certainly didn't react to it. The second force wasn't wearing anything. They were definitely trying to keep themselves hidden amidst the vegetation. They were ripe for the picking and we picked on them when they came into range. I went for the leaders while the squad concentrated its fire on the main body. Without their leader, they did panic. Soon they were running away from the battle without having really joined into it. I doubt that they fired back half as many arrows as my five archers fired at them to force the retreat. We only were able to retrieve a few bows and arrows from their left behinds. However, with those we had enough to add a few archers to our own force and did so with some of our alternates waiting for their chance to join the battle should any of our archers be wounded or killed. Having so few warriors against so many, I had trained more than enough men and women. Most of our archers were men since they were stronger, but there were a few women other than myself. Myself? Well, yes, I was in a female body, so I was a woman to everyone around me. With the second force retreating, we returned to the battle a few archers stronger and took up new positions to add our weight into the fray. We had losses, to be sure. At least two of my archers and a shield bearer were dead, their places taken by eager alternates, as well. A couple of retrievers were wounded or dead, too. We weren't getting a free ride at all. It was costing us to fight and win this battle. The other general sent a runner of his own to find out where his other force was. Meanwhile the battle continued. My scouts were back in position on the flank where we stopped the second force, so I wasn't worried about being out-flanked without warning. We were clearly getting the better of the enemy as far as casualties went. Still, I wondered if the enemy was ready for the next phase of our combat, the phalanx. I signaled my forces for the phalanxes to form up and prepare to charge. Underwater where they couldn't be seen or targeted yet, a small force began to gather. They carried spears and shields of their own. Narrower shields, to be sure, but still some protection from the arrows the enemy was using. I signaled again. My archers reorganized into larger squads on the flanks so that the enemy would concentrate his fire on them, leaving the center open for my infantry. I didn't have much of an infantry force, hardly more than the amount of archers. However, I hoped they would be enough. My next signal instructed the infantry phalanx to move to the shore, emerge, and charge while shouting and screaming at the enemy to frighten him even worse. The plan began to unfold into action. My archers were getting the full

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attention of the enemy archers. Then my infantry suddenly emerged from the water in the shallow water and charged headfirst at the men. My infantry had their spears in an array that threatened everything in front of them and their shields to protect them as they charged in an almost perfectly maintained phalanx. Their charge so unnerved the enemy that many of his archers forgot to keep shooting at anyone and turned their attention away from my own archers. In doing so, they were exposed temporarily to fire from my own archers. We cut down a number of them right then with our larger squads. Then my infantry was in among the enemy who was quite unprepared for an infantry battle by now. He expected to fight long range and we were fighting at every range. My opposing general was good. He realized very quickly they would be slaughtered if they didn't retreat. He ordered the retreat and then his force simply broke and ran. I recalled my own infantry to keep them from being cut down in return. While they and my archers provided cover, we sent in our retrievers to gather weapons for more of our people to arm themselves with. While that went on, I thought of the next battle and wondered if I could make it the last. It seemed like it wasn't likely to be so. More likely, the war would go on for some time. *** I counseled my troops, now having twice as many archers as before. I knew a little more about this world and the area I was in. The other race had boats, so I knew it was only a matter of time before they tried to outflank us using them to either ferry troops or carry them into battle. The battlefield was going to enlarge soon beyond my control. I began training leaders, telling them there wasn't any set way to fight a war other than to be better prepared than the enemy. That's a constant I've found on various worlds where they were more advanced. By then, most of them knew the rules for winning a war. Some knew the rules, but disregarded them. They lost, of course. We called in more of our people from other places where the news had traveled of our fight for the right to live. We were truly mobilizing our forces. We had to do it first before the other side realize the war would spread. They, for the most part, were still living under the same conditions. Trying not to be seen and killed. I assigned a number of people the task of providing logistics, explaining to them its importance. Many were disappointed at not being taught to fight. Others were given the tasks of finding more materials so we could begin to make our own weapons in massive numbers. They, too, were disappointed. Still, it was necessary to the war effort. They had to be armed and have leaders before they could fight.

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Others got slightly more glamorous jobs when they were assigned to create traps to confound and confuse the enemy, not to mention kill a few of them. Since I had no doubt about where the next battle would be, only larger, there wasn't much of a problem in figuring out where to put the traps. Soon we had traps set in the forests, the clearings, and even in the water circling our positions so our smaller force could survive to win. Though we didn't have more metal-tipped spears, we did have our people make large quantities of various lengths of wooden spears with sharpened points. I taught some of my people to throw them effectively and others how to fight with them in both close and hand-to-hand combat. Or should that be hand-to-claw combat? Gradually, we were accumulating various units of force which would work together in combat to support each other. It was mostly a matter of waiting for the enemy to either strike or decide that the war was over. We didn't have the choice of saying it was over until the enemy was willing to grant us the right to live. *** I wondered when the enemy would get just a little bit smarter. I wasn't disappointed when the next battle took place. Thankfully, I had my sentries and scouts out, having made them even more aware that vigilance was of the utmost importance. It was thus that I was awakened during the night, when I should have been able to search for a Winker opening, that the enemy was on the move to take up positions then. Since there was too much danger around for me to search for a Winker, I really had no choice but to lead the fight for survival. I guessed then that the enemy was relying on us not being able to fight as effectively against someone we couldn't see as well, while they could see us since our eyes glowed in the dark while open. Expecting that, we didn't oppose them openly. That's what our traps were for. We moved away from the shore and watched to see if any boats also arrived. Those we could easily oppose openly since they would be in an element we were better adapted to. *** The pits took out victims first from among the invading army. It only required them to find a few of those the hard way before they moved into the area much slower and with greater caution. I wasn't at all concerned about the pits they didn't fall into. If we could make them retreat, then the pits would get some of them on the way out, too. The casualties consisting of wounded men caused them to reveal their positions quite handily. We used their sounds to know when to unleash other traps upon them. Rocks and logs fell from the trees as they unwittingly triggered them or we did, depending on the circumstances and where they were. We tripped the traps that would swing out from the forest into the

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clearings when we gauged them to be in the target area. We let their troops in the forest trigger the rest. I have really no idea of how many casualties we caused during the night as they strove to get to their desired positions. They weren't thinking completely as we were. We were also land dwellers, primarily, in fact. We were thinking about how to attack someone defending from the water. We then based our defenses on countering all the best positions and movements they could make. I only know we demoralized a lot of them and caused significant damage to the size of their force. From the sounds of everything, I could tell we were even more outnumbered than ever before. Our stand would be the kind that history records. *** Morning broke with the enemy finally in position. We let them wait. They looked around anxiously and nervously. We let them wait. They began to doubt themselves. We let them wait. They began to doubt their leaders. We let them wait. When they finally began to argue among themselves and even to get out of position, we attacked. We didn't bother with our previous style of fighting by popping up one unit at a time to draw their attention to one location. We popped up with all our archers at the same time and fired one volley at them before popping back under. Fortified with fresh air in our lungs, we waited again. When they showed extreme nervousness, we popped up again and fired another volley. The effects were devastating. We weren't killing or wounding as many as prior battles, but we were demoralizing them. Hundreds, if not thousands, of their arrows floated on the water for us to retrieve. We let the arrows float away with the current to be retrieved away from the battle so that only combatants were in the area. That gave us more freedom of movement. After all, you can only fit so many people inside an area and we were mostly limited by the range of our bows. Mostly, I was trying to force them to reveal all their strengths. Sooner or later, they would. Our change in tactics forced them to do so sooner. We didn't have very long before boats appeared, heralded by our scouts. We let them come at us. I would have expected a trap. I don't know why they didn't. They came at us with the current, the men on board armed with bows and long spears. The men with long spears prodded the water, searching for us underwater. Half of them were standing. They went spilling out of their boats when their boats rammed our underwater spikes and sank. Now it was time for our close in fighters armed with knives to attack. The men in the water were practically slaughtered since they weren't armed with the right weapons. Those who tried to swim away were permitted to do so. Those who tried to stay and fight were killed for the most part. We managed to capture

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some of them, wounded, but alive. This was what I was waiting for. So far, we hadn't had any discourse with the enemy. We would try to take the first step in doing so. If we could make our demands for life known, then there was a chance to stop the war from spreading and going further. Still, there was a battle to be won, sort of. Since the only force I really feared which the other side had consisted of their boats, I wasn't really concerned with the men on shore. They could wait some more. Still, I had to keep them interested, so my warriors popped up every now and then to unleash another volley of arrows at them. *** I left the main battle when a soldier came to me with news of the capture. I hurriedly swam with him to where our people were holding the men prisoner and afloat. "Do you understand me?" I asked in what you call English. I got no reply. I tried my second language and still got no reply. My third language worked. "You can speak?" one man exclaimed. I replied, "We all can, but in a different language. We may be different in appearances, but we are people as you are. We don't like being hunted and killed for our skins, different though they may be. This war started over a group of your people hunting down and killing one of our people. Unfortunately, it happened in front of me and I don't like that. My people were otherwise very content to be peaceful and try not to get in your way. That has changed. We will not make way for your people anymore. You will either share this world with us or one of our peoples will soon be extinct. To show we'd rather talk than kill, you will be released back to your people, alive and with your wounds treated as best we can for now. It is up to you to tell your people we are intelligent and wish peace. Do you recognize a white flag as a symbol of truce for parlaying?" He answered, "Yes. You mean you do, too?" "We will. However, any tricks and our forces will not only never honor another truce but we'll do our best to wipe out your people no matter where they go. Is that quite understood?" I asked. "Yes, yes," he replied. I said, "Fine. We're going to have to release you some distance from the battle so that my people won't be killed getting you to safety. If you want to really see your friends and families survive, then contact your force and tell them of our conversation." I turned to my people and then instructed them to treat the wounds and then take the men to a safe location and release them. By now, my people knew I had reasons for doing so. After all, they had captured prisoners in accordance with my instructions already. Why not go the extra

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effort? *** Before any of our battles, my people didn't have any white cloth. We did as a result of one of the battles when we took some from the clothing of a dead man. It wasn't a very big piece of white cloth, but it would have to do. Knowing what language the men were speaking, I dared to move close to shore and hoist the white flag. I wasn't sure if the other men had reached them yet, but I wanted the enemy to start seeing us behaving as civilized people. I was careful when I raised my head up, using a small shield to protect me in case someone forgot what a white flag meant. Then I hollered loud enough to be heard in the language of the enemy. "I'd like to speak to the leader of the opposing force. We will honor the white flag of truce as long as you do." Then I waited. Among the noise of the distant troops, I couldn't make out what was being said any better than before. However, it appeared they had heard me. They sounded as if they were arguing. Had my ears not been covered over with scales, I might have recognized their language a lot sooner as well. However, you can't always have a perfect world. I waited still more. At least, there were no arrows moving back and forth between their force and mine. I could only hope that one of the men we released would make his way to the other leader and tell him part of what I said. I still had a long way to go in establishing relations before I could resume my search for a Winker. I guess it was about an hour later when a voice hailed out to me. "You want to talk?" he said. "Yes, we want to talk and not make war!" I hollered back as I peeked around the edge of my shield. A solitary man was advancing to the edge of the water. Hopefully, he was their leader. He walked with the confidence of one. I lowered my shield some so he could see me. "You don't want to make war? Then why did you start?" he asked. I figured then that no one had reached him. I answered, "The war started when some of your people hunted down some of ours and skinned them for their hides. We are not animals. We are intelligent beings as you are. We have a right to live out our lives peaceably. I killed those hunters and the people who came afterwards to try to kill us. We will suffer no more needless killing of our people anymore. If that means your people and mine shall fight until only one people remains on this world, then so be it. However, if your people are willing to live in peace with us, that can be arranged instead. We would rather live in peace than see people on both sides of this conflict die needlessly. That gains nothing. If you wipe us out,

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then you are that much more alone on this world. The same goes for us. We can live and work together or keep on killing. Which would you rather have?" He stood there and thought over what I said. Obviously, he was considering his options. I hoped that was a good sign. This either had to be the last battle or the war was going to spread over the entire world. Eventually, he said one word, "Peace." "Then peace it shall be. Let us all put our weapons down and show our trust. My warriors will show themselves and not shoot your people down. Your soldiers shall not shoot at mine. As soon as enough of both peoples learn the other's language, then more progress can be made. Until then, let there be no more hunting or bloodshed between our peoples," I said as I stood up. *** It was close to two weeks later before I could resume my search for a Winker. I spent most of that time teaching what I knew of the other's language to a large class of students. My students sat around mistrusting each other the first day. By the third day, they were teaching each other dirty words. When they reached a point where they could teach each other any words I didn't know, I left them to their own resources. It was time for me to do something for myself. While I was still there, the killing wasn't completely stopped, but it was only random hunting in the farthest reaches where the news hadn't reached yet. It was something which I warned both sides was likely to happen and shouldn't be permitted to stop them from having peace. With suggestions that they form a coalition government to rule themselves and make laws which they could jointly administer, I let them start working out everything. I didn't want to be queen of the reptilian people or a leader for both peoples. It was only about a week after I began searching that I was successful. I even thought I was going into my own world because of the colors of vegetation and sky that I saw. I gathered my gear together out of habit and stepped into the other world before it could escape from me.

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Chapter 8 I walked upon the purple grass without thinking at first that I wasn't home. I glanced down at myself and was pleased to see I was becoming a man once more. Maybe I wasn't as large as before, but I had been through some adventures, so far. It didn't occur to me that my body difference was the first evidence I wasn't home. The orange skies looked every bit as beautiful as I remembered them. I admired them as I began to walk in search of a highway. As I said, I didn't think of being on another world much like mine. My skin texture was rapidly changing as well back to smooth skin. The colors were fading and I thought I would soon be aquamarine in skin color, so I wasn't paying much attention to myself. At least, I was still thinking it would take a few days for my body to adapt back to its original form and color. However, I wasn't thinking about security or getting food immediately. In fact, if anything, I was more concerned about finding something to wear so I wouldn't be arrested when I reached civilization. Off in the distance, storm clouds gathered. I knew I was in for a rain. It didn't much matter to me. I didn't have anything on to really get wet or be overly concerned about. I doubted that the water could harm the gear I had anymore than the water on the last world had. After all, I had just spent half my time in the water on the last world. What was a little rain? Even if the rain was chilly, I was quite inured to chilly temperatures as well. I wasn't going to let a rain storm dampen my feelings about being home at last. I walked on, feeling happy and well, not expecting that I was in for the worst time of my life. The wind picked up as the storm approached. I didn't let that bother me. It wasn't a bad wind. It was more like the typical wind just before the rain comes down. I just gritted my teeth and squinted my eyes against the dust blown up by the wind. I was heading for a forest where I might be sheltered some anyway. There wasn't any lightning in the storm, so I felt I'd be safe though wet when I reached the forest. Minutes later, I heard the patter of rain approaching. It wasn't but a few seconds later when the first drop hit my bare skin and stung the hell out of me. Then more hit and I looked at where I was being hit. That's when I became scared. The rain contained acid! My world doesn't have acid rain of any sort. I knew then I needed to get off the world as quickly as possible or die. If the rain was acid, then the rivers and lakes would likely be the same. I had three days to survive, if I could get out of the rain. It was then that I made my first decision. I turned and ran to return to the Winker I came through. Better to be scaly than dead from acid. Every drop hurt as it caught up with me more and

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more. Meanwhile, I pushed myself at my best running speed to reach the Winker. Even as I ran, I considered which direction it had gone. I wasn't sure. As I ran back, using some of my own tracks to guide me, I realized I didn't know which way the Winker went after I stepped through. I would have a fifty-fifty chance of picking the right direction when I reached where my tracks began. Having already experienced situations where the Winker wasn't going the same direction on both worlds, I knew I couldn't rely on what I remembered on the other world as to its direction. I ran quickly, still feeling the stinging acid eating into my skin. It wasn't the strongest of acids, but it was hurting me severely. I wasn't sure quite how long I could survive if I didn't find the Winker. The tracks I made ended in front of me. That was where I entered this world. I could see where I pause for a moment and turned to see if the landscape looked right. It did. I was in the right place, but I knew I didn't have very long to survive without the Winker or shelter. Shelter! Which way offered the best chance for finding shelter? That was my real choice or decision to make. I glanced both ways and then began to run once more. I could only hope that I would find one of the two in the direction I chose. If I could find either, then I would take what I had. I couldn't last for very long in the acid. I knew I couldn't. As I ran in my new direction, I realized something else then. It was daylight and would be nearly impossible to spot the Winker. Now, I was glad that I chose to go in the direction which appeared to offer the best chance of shelter from the rain. The forest loomed ahead of me. I wasn't at all concerned with predators. They would have to be far worse than the rain in order to stop me. I was hungry as well. My body was craving food to complete the change. Now, I could see that my skin wasn't going to be aquamarine on this world. It was merely another confirmation that it was the wrong world. I reached the forest. It gave me the first bare hint of shelter as its branches slowed down the amount of rain hitting me directly. Though there were drops of acid rain dripping down, the acid rain wasn't so far advanced that it had soaked everything yet. The forest was absorbing some of it. I was a little safer for the moment. My skin was pocked with welts and burns where the rain pelted me. Had it been any harder in the downpour, I probably would have been dissolved by the acid rain before retracing my own tracks. I was merely fortunate to be at the very most leading edge of the storm and able to just keep at that point for a short while. It was raining much harder now that I had slowed my pace to conserve energy while under the shelter of the forest. I wasn't out of danger by any

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means. Only the inevitable had been delayed. I needed either better shelter or a Winker opening to go through. Neither appeared to be on the horizon for me at the time. Stinging badly occasionally as a drop of acid fell through the overhead forest branches to reach me, I continued on in the direction I chose. It was only by luck that I found a hollow tree. The opening was just big enough for me to slip into. Lacking any other shelter, I entered it. There I stayed the night, hearing the acid rain pour down among the branches and leaves, dripping to the ground nearby. Occasionally, a drop splattered into my shelter, stinging me again and again. I was hungry, tired, and still attempting to change. My change wasn't helping me to adapt to that world. But for the acid, I might have been able to survive there. It rained all night. *** I was able to leave the shelter late in the morning to begin anew my search for a Winker. My only saving grace was that most of the acid had been absorbed by the ground, run off, or collected in puddles. Still, walking on the ground was painful most of the time. My feet were taking a beating almost as bad as the day before. I had no choice but to continue to search in the same direction. I had no idea of how fast the Winker was moving on that world. It could be just up ahead. It could have gone the other direction. I didn't know, though I did care. I only knew that I couldn't give up. My chances were slightly improved since it wasn't raining and it didn't appear from the condition of the sky that it would rain again. Still, I knew I couldn't last long without water or food to replenish what my body was demanding. I walked all day, keeping my eyes open for the Winker. It wasn't there to be found. It was getting to the point that I began to believe I chose the wrong direction. I could only hope that with the night, my chances would improve. All I needed to do was spot a point of light and head for it. *** With the night, I got my chance to see a point of light. I headed for it and almost walked into a lake of acid. If the light I saw was a Winker, I couldn't get to it without dying first. I was blocked off from it. It seemed pretty hopeless then and I despaired. I knew then that I had done everything wrong when I thought that I was on my home world. I resolved not to repeat that mistake again. Again. So funny how that word can mean so many things. At least, it showed then that I hadn't given up hope. Being blocked off by a lake, I had little choice but to take myself back the other way. Something told me that there was no way for me to cross it. Even if it was fed by little streams, I might not be able to cross one of them. If I chose the wrong side of the lake to try and circle, I might reach the outlet

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where it could be a larger stream going somewhere. So it was that I began walking the other way. I almost made another mistake. I forgot to watch. *** It was fate, fortune, or good luck that caused me to walk into what I was seeking. Of all the things, it was following me. It was headed for the lake. It wasn't my Winker back to the previous world, but it was a Winker and it was large enough. I eagerly stepped through.

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Chapter 9 And I became a female again in what wasn't the same world as before. Having learned my lesson again, I quickly looked around to see if there was any danger. As soon as I thought I was safe, I began foraging for food to stop the craving my body was going through. At least, I was in what appeared to be a paradise. There was food aplenty! I gorged myself, while remaining alert to my surroundings, and only glanced on occasion to see what changes were happening to myself. It didn't take long for some of the changes to manifest themselves. I knew almost immediately on entry that I was becoming female. The loss of some parts and extension of others was a dead giveaway, I felt. At any rate, I didn't mind too much being blue or female. It was a lot better than dying. I appeased my immediate hunger and began making a home for myself, finding water not too long after entering that world of green vegetation and sky. The horizon was difficult to make out for that reason. I wasn't. Blue stood out well at close distance. Only at a far distance was I certain that I might blend in. By nightfall, I had a campsite built with a barricade and began to see what I had left of my equipment. For the most part, my equipment had suffered from the acid almost as much as I. My bow and arrows were protected somewhat by the wax on them. The knives were in sad shape. They needed sharpening. I was concerned they might continue to deteriorate. What rope I had with me was badly damaged. It was falling apart. The acid, when it hit it, was retained enough to eat through much of it. The fibers were falling apart and I salvaged what I could to make a new belt to attach my knives to. My quiver was also deteriorating badly. It was a miracle that I had any arrows still in it. Somehow, I didn't lose any. I had a strong feeling those would be my primary defense and meal provider for fresh meat. Having been awake for quite a long time, I ate some more of what I picked and then went to sleep inside my barricade. *** With the morning, I re-evaluated my situation while checking around to see if I was still secure. Two knives, bow and ten arrows, a quiver, and a piece of rope which was only good enough to use as a belt. It was time to improve my lot. My first and best thought was to do some hunting. After all, I could make a new quiver from an animal skin. I could also make some new clothing, not that I was afraid of anyone seeing my naked body. I thought of them mostly for the protection they might afford me. Footwear was high on my list. With what little I had, it was easy for me to pick up everything, leave my barricaded campsite, and head out to hunt. All I had in mind was to get

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some fresh meat and some animal pelts to work with. *** I ventured out of the area I was in, searching for something small, such as a rabbit on an Earth scale of small animals. I found a rabbit or his great granddaddy. The world I was in wasn't quite as developed as most I had been on to that point. Picture Earth about a million years ago and you'll know what I was up against. The rabbit was almost as big as myself. He didn't look like a vegetarian, either. It took me three arrows to dispatch him when he charged me. He didn't run or try to escape. He charged. I felt fortunate I hadn't been hunting with a spear. Probably I could have killed him, but I'd rather not be that close to something with teeth like he possessed. Judging the rest of the world's wildlife on that one creature was a good decision on my part. That world was quite prehistoric in nature. There were other creatures even larger than him and with just as nasty dispositions as well. Anyway, I had meat to eat for several meals and enough hide to make some footwear and a skirt to drape around myself. I also replaced my quiver and made a bag to carry food in. There was still enough for me to make a crude water container. By crude, I still couldn't make one good enough to hold water for more than a few hours at most. Doing those things took me most of the day. I retired to my barricaded campsite with the meat and skin to work. Only just before dark did I venture back out to gather some fruit and vegetables. Then it was back inside my shelter and sleep. *** The next day was spent getting more food and beginning to get my schedule on a nightly operation. Based on only the rabbit, I knew I didn't want to remain there long. Though I was still going through anatomical changes, I hoped to get a head start on getting to a new world where there wouldn't be as much danger. *** I was going out nights by the fifth night on that world. By then, I'd seen enough of the wildlife to know my guess was correct just based on the rabbit. The nights didn't appear to be much safer to be up and around. They weren't. On the sixth night, I was hit from ambush, clubbed, and dragged to my captors lair. While I was unconscious, he raped me. Personally, I was getting tired of being raped and losing my virginity by then. I know for certain it's a very traumatic experience for any woman, regardless of what period of history she lives in, even when it's a fact of life for some periods as it was for the one I was in. That didn't make me feel any better to know I was being caged and kept just so that I could be raped when

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the man was horny. An excellent descriptive term invented on Earth, need I tell you? No other world, I've been to, has quite that finesse in describing that condition for either man or woman. *** When I came to, I and another woman were caged inside his lair, a filthy, unkempt, smelly cave which needed to have the filth thrown out before someone caught something. To make matters short, I caught something. For the first time, I would become pregnant. I didn't know that, at first. I wasn't far enough along to know yet. I was upset, angry even, to see him use my bow as part of his campfire. The arrows, too, became so much kindling. It took him a while to discover that the knives were useful. Of course, he cut himself first and bled profusely. As a result, his uneven temper resulted in a broken knife when he threw the offending knife at the wall of the cave. That left just one knife and a bunch of melted arrowheads. He had taken everything from me. The quiver, my skirt, my footwear, nothing remained for me to use. Though I was his prisoner, he wasn't used to dealing with someone who knew how to deal with cages and escape. Probably he thought I would be grateful for being a kept woman and offer my body willingly. We were thrown some meat and a few of my fruits and vegetables. I had to fight with the other woman to get my share of my own food. I waited until the man went to sleep and then began my escape. *** Getting out wasn't all that difficult. I only had to knock the other woman unconscious so she wouldn't interfere with me. Perhaps, had she known that I was leaving and she'd be number one again, she might have helped me pack. Anyway, I got out with only a little of my gear. I managed to retrieve my footwear, my bag, and a knife. The rest, he was either sleeping on or had burned. As soon as I was safely away from him, I made myself a crude spear. There was no way I was tangling with anything using only my knife. With a suitable spear, I continued on. I managed to return to my barricade and began work on making my own crude bow and arrows. *** It was several days later when I began to throw up. At first I thought it was something I ate. Then I realized I wasn't eating anything different than before. I was watching my hygiene carefully, drinking only clean water, and cooking my meat properly. I was just as careful with the fruits and vegetables I picked. Then I thought of my exposure to that filthy cave and became fearful that I caught something there which was only beginning to manifest itself after a suitable incubation stage. Because of that, I hurriedly gathered more

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than enough fruit and vegetables to last me a week. If I got sick, I hoped I wouldn't have to leave my barricaded shelter. Water was my only concern. Sure, I was worried I might become more than just nauseous. I thought I might become feverish and even comatose. However, those didn't come to pass. The nausea stayed with me quite some while as I kept my mind off my possible illness and continued to work on my bow and arrows. *** It was almost a week later when I was hunting again. Meat was something I needed to add back to my diet though I made sure I avoided the area where the man lived. Hopefully, he would be happy with just that one woman or some other woman besides me. I didn't need him. I only needed to find a Winker and get back home. I wished I had picked up the broken knife when I escaped. The blade could have been used for my spear or even for an arrow, depending on how it broke. It could have been in two pieces or three. That I was unsure of. I only saw from my angle the broken off handle. Since I didn't want to tangle with anything large, I deliberately searched out the lairs or dens of the creatures I hunted to get their young. I figured they would be somewhat easier to kill. I wasn't always successful in finding the young. Eventually I had to settle for what I could kill. Thankfully, I thought not long after thinking of the broken knife blade of the teeth from that first rabbit. Those turned out to make excellent arrowheads. With those, I was able to once again drop something as large as myself. Of course, I didn't stand right in the path of such creatures since my bow wasn't as good as the one the man burned. Instead, I prepared blinds or hunted from low hanging branches where I held the advantage. With my next kill of a rabbit, I increased my supply of arrows. For the most part, I was getting myself ready once more for the plunge into the Winker and another world. A new, slightly better water container. Hey, it actually held water almost a day! A new quiver. A new skirt with a sheath for my knife. What more could a woman want? Anyway, all that took some time as I prepared myself so I could search with the comfort of knowing I could defend myself if anything threatened me while searching. *** It was almost a month later when I realized what the nausea was. Then I felt really sick. I wasn't at all sure what to do about my condition. I didn't know how to give myself an abortion. Hell, I didn't even know how to give birth. I knew very little about the subject. About the only thing I could do was resolve to research it the next time I was in a world where I could. I also wasn't sure what would happen if I went through a Winker while pregnant.

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Would I suddenly give birth? What if I became a man first? How would I give birth then? Frankly, I was concerned and .... To tell the truth, I was plain worried and more than slightly scared. Whatever the situation I was in, I still knew I had to find a Winker opening. I'd never find out until I did. *** It was one of my longest stays on any world until Earth. I couldn't keep track of time very well. Not every world had the same length of day or year, for all I knew. Many were similar in length of days, but that was all I knew. Anyway, I had a full quiver of arrows, a fairly decent spear, and a goodly length of rawhide rope when I finally spotted a Winker. I was also about eight months pregnant. My belly stuck out and I couldn't even wear my only skirt. I had to carry it in my food sack. That made getting to my knife a little difficult, but I managed. Anyway, I had intended on looking into the next world and trying to judge whether I should take the plunge considering my predicament. You know, pregnant? Eight months? That predicament? That was my intention. I never got the chance. Like I said, I did my best to remain alert. Only occasionally did I get caught in an ambush by a skilled hunter such as that man who last raped me. My alertness paid off as I approached the Winker. I was on the menu for a fairly large predator. There was no choice for me but to enter the Winker. My arrows couldn't have stopped that particular predator before it got to me. At eight months pregnant, I was in no real condition to engage in close combat. I took the only real choice I had at the time. I ran the last short distance to the Winker opening and dove through.

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Chapter 10 Instantly, I got to my feet and looked around. I didn't check on myself or to see if the baby I was carrying was okay. I looked back at the Winker to see if I was followed in. I didn't think the predator could get through, but I still had to be cautious. I also checked around myself to be sure I wasn't in danger from anything within the new world. Only when I was sure I was safe did I look down and see that the full tits I had and my belly were disappearing. Between my legs hung my manhood once more as it began developing again. White vegetation and blue skies. It wasn't a bad looking combination, all in all. I wasn't as hungry as before on changing into other worlds. I guessed then that my body was absorbing everything it put into the pregnancy. As far as I know, I was right. Had I stayed in that other world, I would have given birth. At any rate, I knew that going through pregnant wouldn't necessarily harm me. At least, it didn't that time. I hoped there would be no other times. Regardless of my being safe for the time being, I went ahead and rechecked my security, then began checking on what was available in the way of food and water sources. Then I began to build a barricaded shelter for my first night. *** Three days later, I discovered the world had inhabitants. They were even slightly more advanced than what I had encountered so far. They actually had firearms. For the usual reason, I kept to myself, concerned that they might turn out to be hostile. Instead, I concentrated on getting to my schedule of staying up nights and sleeping during the day. Events would soon catch up with me regardless. *** It was almost two weeks into that world when I had my next encounter with them. By then, I was quite past any changes and proud of how I turned out. I was actually a little better off than I started with on my own world in the manhood department. Of course, I went ahead and wore the skirt for protection against the brambles and brush I sometimes had to tread through. I was able to modify my footwear to fit my more normal foot size as a man. I thought I was fairly safe from being spotted because I was almost as pure white as the vegetation covering the landscape. I was wrong. I was spotted and the men began riding their horses in my direction. Once I determined there was no other reason, I ran out of the area into a forest. They tried to follow, so I kept going. I was determined not to be captured for whatever purposes they intended. My efforts in modifying my footwear and making a new skirt proved up to the task as I outdistanced my

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pursuers in the forest by heading into the thickest areas where their mounts couldn't follow. *** I kept watch on them for several weeks as they occupied the area I most wanted to search. After all, my reasoning was that, sooner or later, a Winker was more likely to reappear in an area where one had been before than anywhere else. I mean, it had worked that way so far. Plus, I didn't want to wander too far away from what I hoped would be familiar territory once my home world was in view. I might be able to recognize my world by its colors, but not necessarily by the landscape. Not many people ever see more than a very small percentage up close of the world they live on. Certainly, I was in the majority there, having seen little of my own world, but I still missed it all. I didn't spend all of each day watching them. That would have been quite boring in itself. Basically, I just checked once each day to see if they were still about. Then I spent that night searching in a different area for a Winker without success. That part about without success was what made me more anxious to return to where I felt a Winker was sure to appear sooner or later. Because of their presence, I also had to move my own campsite. I didn't want them moving in on me and surrounding me, especially considering they had firearms. My puny self-made bow and arrows weren't much of a match for them. It would be either a choice of surrender or die. Since I don't particularly want to die, not after what I'd been through so far, that left only the other unsuitable alternative. Even then, surrendering was no guarantee of life. Of course, I was definitely cooking my meat in the morning so they wouldn't be able to spot my fire or be able to see the smoke from it very easily. I kept it small and tried to do my cooking away from my barricaded shelter in different places so they would think I was constantly on the move and be less likely to discover me. *** I was somewhat encouraged to discover a small Winker in the new area I was searching. It wasn't large enough to go through, but it did afford a peek into another world. It was an industrialized world, possibly Earth, that I saw. I couldn't tell very much about it other than the fact that it appeared to be prosperous and at peace. I wish I could have shown that to some of the cultures I had met thus far to demonstrate what they could accomplish if they worked together. However, search as I might, I wasn't able to discover a Winker large enough to let me through. I was amazed, though, at how many Winkers existed and wondered how come they hadn't been found and reported

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before. Then I got to thinking about my own situation and realized that anyone who found one most likely did the same as I. They stepped through, forgot what they were doing, turned around and couldn't find their way back. Then they either succumbed to the environment, were deemed crazy, or established a new culture if they had anyone with them to do so. They might have some idea of what happened to them, but most likely that got passed down as some sort of story similar to the one I've heard on Earth about being kicked out of a Garden of Eden. Of the worlds I've seen or been in, that could apply to perhaps a dozen of them as far as similarity and abundance of resources. It was only sheer determination that I was using to force myself to continue to search for my own world so I could return home to it. *** It wasn't too much later when I was cornered and surrounded as I began to prepare my meal in the morning. I had just gotten my campfire going. Apparently, the men had been up and around for some reason, which I didn't find out, not that it matters much. What matters is that they caught me. They managed to do so, partly because they were mounted. I wasn't in a thick enough area of vegetation to hide or escape through. I couldn't outrun their bullets, either. A fact made clear to me when one fired into the dirt in front of me as I stood to run. Having little choice, I remained standing as they drew up near me. Two of the riders dismounted, came over to me, and removed my weapons from me. They were of the same skin color, so I hoped I might be able to reason with them. One of them began to tie me while another looked at the meat I was going to cook. He seemed dissatisfied with what I had to eat. I was secured with another rope around my body which led to one of their horses. While the one man picked up my meat to take along. The other man remounted and they began to ride with me forced to follow or be dragged. I chose to keep up as best I could. We continued onward beyond the areas where I had been searching for a Winker. I did my best to remember the landscape as I followed them. I still had hopes of being able to escape and return, if they didn't release me of their own accord sometime later. What struck me as strange was that they didn't bother to say anything to me or each other. However, that bullet striking the ground had been more than enough speech from them so far. I guessed it was better that I keep my mouth shut until I knew more, as well. I guess that having me walking behind them slowed down their normal pace. We didn't reach their destination until quite late in the day. By then I was behind on my sleep, having been up for over a full day. Combined with the extended walk I took, I wasn't much in the mood to begin a discussion. I

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was more or less glad to sleep when we stopped at a small cabin. I was led to a room inside it where my bonds were rechecked and then tied further to make sure I didn't escape. The room had no windows and only the one door. It was shut and I could hear sounds of movement outside it quite often. *** I struggled against the ropes, but I was quite unable to loosen them at all. There was nothing in the room for me to wear them against and possible cut them loose. Even if I had, there was still the men in the other room to deal with. Possibly, I could have taken them in hand to hand combat, even though there were three of them. However, I probably would have been shot in the back as I escaped unless I killed them or took their weapons. But, that was a moot point since I was tied quite securely and in a room that might even be locked. They didn't feed me or give me anything to drink that night. That concerned me. If they had no intention of harming me, then it would make sense to act humanely. I could see that my situation was quite grave from their lack of talking to me and their lack of attention to any needs I might have. The best I could do for myself was manage to move to a corner, relieve myself, struggle back to a different corner, and go to sleep. At least, I would be rested somewhat in the morning for whatever happened next. *** In the morning, I heard the sounds of a rider approaching. Not long afterwards, one of the men came inside my room, looked at me, and then proceeded to put a bolt into the wall. Moments later, he produced some shackles and secured one of my wrists in the shackles before he released me from the ropes. He left the room then. I hadn't had much to say or do about anything he did. If he wasn't going to talk, then I wasn't either for the time being. My rationale for that was I had no idea of what I was guilty of in their eyes. Certainly, I wanted to find that out first before I said anything that might worsen my situation. It wasn't long after that when one of the men came in with some food and water. I took that as a good sign, even though the water was tepid and the food was a small ration and not very appealing. Still, I was hungry and in no position to demand better. I took what I was given and ate and drank. My only problem was that I couldn't move to the other corner to relieve myself. I was forced to do so a lot closer to where I was being held. It wasn't so much the odor that I minded, but rather that it just wasn't very sanitary. So far, I hadn't gotten sick yet, though there were more than ample opportunities to do so. *** I spent most of the day inside that room with one wrist shackled to the

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wall. About the only thing I could do was rest and speculate on what was going on. I wondered if I was trespassing when they captured me. If so, surely they could have just told me to get off their property. I would have done so, even though reluctantly. Surely, I could have found another area where there might be Winkers. That was a far better choice than being put in prison or killed for simple trespassing. I hadn't hurt anyone since entering their world, so I knew that couldn't be the reason for my incarceration. That left me with another possibility. They were slavers. If they were, then maybe I could escape eventually. After all, I had already been to one world where slavery was being practiced. Who says it can't exist on others I might visit? *** Much as I thought that my case would be resolved quite soon, it wasn't. I spent all of that day plus one more in that room with little to eat or drink. One meal a day with water was it. They certainly weren't going to any lengths to keep me alive if I was to become a slave. Despite the shackle, I did manage to do some exercise to keep my muscles from tightening up if I had to act quickly. The last thing I wanted to happen was to get a cramp if I suddenly got the chance to escape. Of course, I also tried to work on the shackle and bolt, but I couldn't budge it without any tools. I chipped away at the wood, but it was extremely hard for wood and I made very little headway against it. *** It was on the third morning when I heard more riders arriving at the cabin. Not long afterwards, two of the men came in, tied me before releasing the shackle from my wrist, and then led me out of that room. I wasn't quite sure at first about what was going on. There were more people present than I thought had arrived. Perhaps some of them rode double or on a wagon. Maybe some of them walked in. I didn't know. That didn't really matter, either. What mattered is I was led to what must have been the front of the room and forced to sit on the floor. It was about then I guessed from the layout of the room and the positions of the people that I was in a courtroom. My room had been my cell. I was being charged with something, but I didn't know what. Still, no one was saying anything to me. One man picked up the meat, now quite spoiled, that I was starting to cook when captured. I guessed then that my crime was poaching. Surely, that couldn't be too severe a penalty. Maybe they'd throw me into that cell for another few days or so. I just hoped it wasn't a crime punishable by death. Still, I didn't hear a single word being exchanged among the people

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there. Then it hit me. They were speaking to each other using telepathy. Maybe they had even been speaking to me already and I hadn't responded. Or maybe I had. Had I? I didn't know and now I was certainly worried. Very worried. My trial continued to go on despite anything I was thinking. I tried thinking hard as if to broadcast to them that I didn't intend any harm. I hadn't known that I was trespassing or poaching. I got no reaction. Then I tried speaking. "May I address the court?" I asked. At least, I got a reaction, but it wasn't the kind of reaction I expected. I was looked at as if I was a dumb animal making sounds instead of intelligent speech. Then they turned from me and continued with my trial. "May I address the court?" I asked again. One of the men stopped what he was doing and looked at me as if I was an animal in pain. He checked my ropes and looked under me by forcing me to move as if I had been sitting on something sharp. Then he shoved me back into place. The trial continued. Now, I was really worried. *** It must have been a fair trial since it lasted quite some time. It was nearly noon before the trial ended with hopefully someone speaking for me during that time. I was led back into the cell and shackled once more. I didn't know what the results were. I wondered if there was a jury or only a judge who would decide my fate. *** To my surprise, I was given a rather good meal that evening. I ate as much as I could of it. Even the water wasn't as tepid as before. I was still shackled and hoped that my better treatment meant I was either going to be released or I was in the custody of the authorities. It wasn't until I began to go to sleep that the other possibility struck me. Maybe that was my last meal. The one good meal most cultures provide to a condemned man. My concerns and worries returned to make sleep difficult for me that night. I had several possibilities concerning my future, one of which was very bad. Unfortunately, it was the one I thought of the most. How would they kill me? Would they shoot me with my back up against a wall or post? Would they poison me? Strangle me? There were lots of ways to die. Hell, they might even just take me somewhere and push me off a cliff. Cheap, efficient, no muss, no real preparation needed. Anyway, I didn't know. Neither did I know if I'd be asked for any final statement. They hadn't understood me when I spoke, so holding my words earlier seemed to be the wise thing now. They wouldn't have understood me then. At least, I hadn't

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wasted the energy trying to make myself understood. I even wondered if they had tobacco and whether I'd be offered a last smoke. I hadn't seen or smelled any yet on this world, but not everyone smokes. It might still have been available. Anyway, I wasn't even sure how I would let them know what I wanted while my speech was useless. I spent a very restless night, filled with horrible dreams about dying. They weren't as horrible as I thought. The real thing is worse, believe me. *** The morning started off poorly with no food or water. Obviously, I wasn't in the hands of better or more concerned people. Two men came into the room and tied me quite securely before leading me out of the room and out of the cabin. Outside, I was once again secured by a long rope to one of the horses while several of the men mounted up. There were a few more than when I was captured. One appeared to be the judge, based on his position in the room during my trial. Still, not a word was exchanged between them and me. I never heard them talking to each other. I knew it had to be telepathy they were communicating with. They might have been communicating with pure thoughts or pictures and not been able to understand my language. Evidently, I wasn't completely like them, even though my appearance spoke otherwise. Once they were mounted, we began our journey. Still hopeful, I watched the landscape carefully in case I should somehow escape. At least, I knew where some of my weapons and other gear was at. I could yet survive if I could reach them. *** It was a long journey lasting until well after noon. We finally stopped in an area not too far from my preferred search area for the Winkers. It was at a rather large tree at which we stopped. I had an intense foreboding about that tree. And I was right. The rope which was used to lead me by was taken off momentarily and then a loop was placed around my neck. They threw the other end around a high branch and began to hoist me up. I was to be hanged for my offense. There was little I could do other than to tighten the muscles in my neck and stave off strangulation for as long as possible. I simply wasn't ready to give up. It didn't take them long to hoist me up so that my feet were no longer touching the ground. I dangled there, forcing my neck muscles to remain stiff and allow a little air to reach my starving lungs. I knew it was inevitable that I would soon tire and strangle anyway, but I wasn't willing to give up. The other end of the rope was tied to the base of the tree. Then my

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captors mounted up and left me to die. I dangled there, struggling to breathe while I tried to loosen the bonds that tied my hands behind my back. Carefully, I tried to use my leg and back muscles to bend upwards and get my hands in front of me where I might be able to reach up and do something about the rope that was strangling me. That wasn't to be. They knew how to tie someone so they couldn't get their hands in front. Gently, I relaxed my other muscles so I didn't make the rope around my neck tighten anymore. I hung there wondering if I should give up and get it over with. I'll admit, the prospects of getting it over with were inviting. At least I could end my suffering a lot sooner. It was very tempting to do that. Still, a spark burned within me. I had, after all, been through too much to give up easily. It had looked very bad for me before, though this was clearly worse, and I hadn't given up. Slowly, the rope twisted me around as I strangled. I had a great view of the countryside. It was still a beautiful world, though not mine. I hoped I would still be able to enjoy it. You know? Those last moment thoughts when you imagine someone is going to happen along and cut you down in the nick of time? Or, the rope breaks suddenly before you pass out and you get free on your own? Those kinds of thoughts began to come to mind. I was looking for a last minute reprieve though I knew that was only in literature. It rarely really happens in real life and my real life was about to end. *** I'm not sure how I managed to last so long, but the sun went down and it began to get dark. It would have been so easy to just close my eyes and relax as if I was going to sleep, only for a far longer time than usual. It would have been so easy . . . Then I saw what could only make me feel worse as I dangled there. It was as if I was being punished even more. I spotted a Winker opening large enough to go through. It was moving in my direction, even. It had to be punishment. Not only would I lose this world, but the next as well. Still, with nothing else to do, I watched as the Winker drew closer. I could see that it was going to pass quite near me. . . That was when the inspiration hit me of a last minute reprieve possibly happening in my case. If it passed close enough, I might be able to enter it after all. Then I thought about the rope around my neck. It would only pull me back through. Still, it was worth a chance. Maybe I would have claws on my feet and hands. With those, I might be able to cut the rope binding my hands before the rope pulled me back to the world I was dying in. It was worth the chance and the effort. After all, I had nothing more to lose than I stood to lose already. Keeping my neck rigid still, I slowly began to move my legs so I could

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begin a swinging action. The rope cut into my neck even more with the increased pressure I was putting on myself. I knew if I failed, I wouldn't be able to regret my failure for very long. What strength I still possessed would be too badly sapped from me by this effort. I'd strangle to death very soon after my failure. Getting up a gentle swinging action wasn't easy. However, I did it and somehow managed to do it in the correct direction. Of course, I still turned every so often, scaring myself that I wasn't swinging in the right direction after all. Still, I fought down my panic and considered each move carefully before I did it. I only had one chance and I couldn't just act without thought or reason. Then the Winker was upon me and my next swing took me inside it. The change to my body was almost immediate as I felt the rope around my neck suddenly become loose. I wasn't sure what was happening, but I could breathe. Not only that, but the ropes were falling from my hands as well. For some reason, the rope from my neck was falling, or rather swinging, back to the other world without me. Even my skirt was falling from my body. I sensed then that I was smaller. On the other hand, I was also falling! I could see the ground below me. It wasn't even as close as when I was being hanged from the tree in the prior world.

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Chapter 11 Not that it really mattered, but I took a quick look at myself. I was falling to my death and yet I still wanted to know what I looked like. I already knew I was smaller than before. Much smaller than before. My skin was turning a pastel blue and I was very much female once more. I plummeted through the air towards the ground with a feeling that something else was different somehow, but I couldn't figure it out. I guess I was afraid to look the last few moments before I hit the ground, closing my eyes so that I wouldn't know the precise moment when it would happen. I even thought I heard voices. I figured I was hearing things. After all, I was falling to my death in a strange world. My body was still undergoing change and craving food. What more could go wrong? For once, something more happened that went right. Someone came to my rescue. Suddenly, I felt hands on my body. Hands about the size of my own, so I knew it wasn't some giant reaching out to catch me. There were a number of hands. I knew I was still falling, but I couldn't figure out where the hands were coming from. There was no one else around me when I began to fall. I figured it was just my mind conjuring up another last reprieve. I was still going to die. Then I realized I wasn't falling as fast. I couldn't touch anything beneath my feet, but my falling was almost completely arrested. Slowly, I opened my eyes, not sure what I'd see. I looked around and saw people much like myself, except they had wings coming from their backs. They were flying and they were gripping me tightly now. They were rescuing me! I was truly saved. "Thank you," I said. "You are not trying to commit suicide then?" one man asked. "No. What makes you think that I was?" I asked. He replied, "Because you are not using your own wings. Are you injured?" I was startled. I glanced over my shoulder and could just barely see the edge of a wing coming from my own back. I replied, "You may not believe this, but I didn't know I had wings. I would appreciate it if you would set me down on the ground first before I try to use them." He looked a little incredulous at first. Then he said, "You didn't know you had wings? Are you sure you want to be set down on the ground? It's quite dangerous there." "I'm sure that I don't know how to use my wings yet," I replied. "If you release me now, I'll surely fall." "Very well. We'll set you down on the ground, but we can't stay with you. It's just too dangerous," he answered.

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"Thank you," I said. They did set me down on the ground very gently. It wasn't at all very far from some of the clothing I once wore. I could have made fifty outfits from that one skirt. I guess it was then that I realized I was beginning to think sometimes like a female. Not every female, mind you, but like some I'd known. Of course, I had no knife to cut down any of the skin with to make a skirt. Besides, being naked hadn't bothered any of the people who saved me moments ago. Neither my own nudity or theirs seemed to be a problem. At any rate, I wasn't going to have to worry much about them as far as my own well-being went. Saving me had already been some proof of that. I still had to deal with predators, which the man had warned me about. That meant I either needed weapons or to learn how to fly with the wings I now possessed. I began experimenting with my wings since those were at hand and weapons weren't. It took a while before I discovered which muscles would make them work. Then it took quite some more time before I was barely able to lift my feet off the ground. Let me tell you, it's hard work learning how to fly when your first time has to be solo and there's really no one to instruct you. You either do it right or you don't fly. Even if you succeed in learning how to take off, there's still the problem of learning how to land, not to mention all the other things which could go wrong. It took me several hours learning how to take off and maintain my flight. I was very fortunate I wasn't attacked by anything during that time. The best I might have done was to skip along the surface and hope to find a place to hide where I couldn't be reached. All that while, I was beginning to develop a real craving for food, but I couldn't reach it. What I wanted was either hanging from some bush, vine, or tree branch out of reach or buried in the ground, which was too hard for me to dig up, not to mention that its size was not as diminished as my own. Anyway, I was finally able to manage flight, though not able to get very high. I don't know if that was my fear keeping me low to the ground or because of how tired I was. After all, I had fought against strangling in a rope for several hours just prior to my arrival in that world. I wasn't in much shape to do more than what I was achieving. As it was, I was barely able to reach the lowest of the available fruits. I walked gingerly on a branch, having flown up to a fruit and considered my options. I wasn't sure how to eat what I wanted to eat. Hey, to a normal sized person, taking a bite out of, say, an Earth apple or orange is no big deal provided you have teeth. Well, I had teeth, but the skin on the fruit I found was too thick for me to penetrate, much less get a grip on to bite in. I spent a few minutes on that problem before I realized I needed the

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assistance of the other people in finding something to eat. Otherwise, I was going to starve. All the while, my body was building up a craving for food to restore the energy used and complete the change my body was going through. It was with a little regret that I left what I found to seek out others who might educate me on what to eat and how to find it. I was only thankful we shared a common language. That, in itself, was a big improvement over the prior world. Let's be honest. That and not having a rope around my neck were two big improvements. *** As I leaped off the branch, I managed to improve my flying speed so it didn't take as much effort to get airborne. Then I strove to gain all the altitude I could. I used my wings as conservatively as possible. Knowing that flying required a lot of energy, I was determined to do so as economically as possible before I got myself in really serious trouble. I really had no idea of where to search for the other flying people. Mostly, I just flew in one direction. It didn't seem too wise to just fly circles. That wouldn't have let me see as much area as going in a straight line, or nearly so, would permit. As I flew and searched for both other food that might be accessible and the flying people who might be willing to share or educate me, I considered my options. I wasn't strong enough to reach the only Winker I knew of on that world. It was quite high up in the air. There might have been more, but I didn't know where those were just as I didn't have any idea which direction the one I came through went. I only had my lost clothing to mark the approximate spot underneath where it had been. I was also quite unarmed and unequipped for survival. I had nothing other than my body and brain to see me through. As I considered everything, I realized this might be the ultimate test of my survival yet. I was having to survive without everything. My only real advantage lie with the additional fact that I could fly. At least, I would be able to cover vast amounts of territory as soon as I was stronger. With luck, I might not have to remain on that world for more than a week. That gave me some encouragement then. *** It was perhaps another hour later when a voice came to me from above and behind. I turned to look and almost fell from the sky. "Easy there!" he said as he dropped down to my level and I regained control of my flight. "Hi, I was looking for you or anyone, to be truthful. Would you mind telling me what's edible and where to find it?" I asked. "You're kidding, aren't you?" he replied. "Does my flight ability look like anyone who's used to flying?" I

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retorted. "Well, I will admit that you're not very good. How did you get that high in the first place?" he responded. "I'll be happy to explain some of my situation once I find something to eat. I'm starving and about to pass out," I said. He said, "You really don't know? You mean you can't recognize all the food you've been passing over?" I shook my head as I answered, "I really don't see any food below me. Please tell me what's edible and where." "Follow me," he said. I did my best to follow him, but he was a much better flyer than I. It was all I could do to keep him in sight as he went lower and landed on a branch after carefully looking around. My own landing wasn't as graceful, but I had been truthful to him. I did feel as if I might pass out. Thankfully, he came over and gave me a hand to steady myself. He walked me over to a flower and said, "There's food." I stared without comprehending at first. Then it struck me that it was either the pollen or the nectar. As soon as I realized that, I knew I was going to have to visit a lot of flowers to get my fill. "Which? The pollen or the nectar?" I asked. "You still don't know? The nectar. Go ahead and eat. I want to hear your story," he said. "I'll keep watch for you. If I say fly, then do it immediately, no matter how hungry or weak you feel. You got that?" "Yes, thank you," I answered as I went about figuring out how to eat. Hands work quite well, it turned out. The nectar was chock full of energy it turned out. I guess it would have to be in order to support some of the life it does. After all, some small birds manage to survive with it and some other stuff to live on. I began to wonder if the meat I would later want would be filet of insect. Obviously, I wasn't going hunting after anything bigger than that. We moved from flower to flower until I was full. I had no idea how long my meal would last me, but the craving and ravenous appetite I had was quelled for the moment. It was finally time to tell my story. He asked me to tell it to him while flying. Though full, I agreed before we managed to both get into the air again. Actually, he didn't have any problem at all. I did. Once in the air, I managed to get a little higher than before and began to tell him my true story, except for the part about the gender change. That sounded too preposterous, even to me. I expected him to be quite astounded by my tale, but he wasn't. "We have legends of such portals as this Winker opening you speak of," he replied. "We've even had people disappear without a trace, but then

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again, if you're eaten on this world, you generally do disappear without a trace. Perhaps some of our people made it onto another world." I said, "Perhaps they did. Anyway, that is what I must do soon. I really want to go home." "I believe you in that," he said. "So, that means you don't have anyplace to spend the night, then?" "No, I don't. What kinds of sleeping arrangements do you make? I was on one world where sleep wasn't necessary. However, I haven't felt that way on this one. I know that I'm tired and sleepy," I replied. "You can sleep at my place," he said. "If you're hungry still when we get there, I have some food in storage that you're welcome to." Suspecting nothing, I accepted. *** To cut to the chase, as you of Earth so quaintly put it, he got me drunk and in bed with him. By morning, I wasn't a virgin anymore on that world. It seems that the nectar he had stored had fermented and he knew it. He took advantage of me in more than one way. He knew I was probably telling the truth about the Winkers. He knew I could barely fly. He knew I was hungry and he knew I didn't have a place to spend the night. What's more, he kicked me out in the morning after telling me I wasn't a very good, uh, lay. Your Earth terms are usually better than those of most worlds even if you do seem to have too many of them. Well, of course, I wasn't a very good lay. I didn't have all that much experience, I was drunk, and I didn't know where the hell to put my wings while he was on top. I got up in the morning with stiff wings, to boot. When he told me those things and told me to leave, well, I did show him how I felt because of him deliberately getting me drunk and taking me. How, you might ask? Simple, I kicked him in his balls and left him lying in his place on his wings. It wasn't so much because he got me drunk and then took me. It was mostly because of the nerve he had to then insult me when he was the one who started the whole thing. I was willing to forgive the getting drunk and being laid part. It was that insult that was too much to take, so I kicked him. Hard. Then I shoved off with a hangover to accompany me. It's not the most pleasant thing to be flying with a hangover. I mean, you're not in a plane with a stewardess to assist you while you're sick. You're on your own when you have your own wings. All you can do is watch the landscape and feel sicker until you throw up. All the while, you're trying to find something to eat while your stomach is both craving it and rebelling against having another thing put in it. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. You understand? Well, that's how I felt. Worse yet, I still wasn't all that accomplished a flyer. I weaved all over the sky. It's amazing I didn't fly into

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anyone or anything. Well, I did kind of fly into something when I went in for a landing on a branch. I mean I missed the damn branch and went back for it in one of the most awful turns imaginable. When I missed the second time. I decided to just try for the flower instead. I landed in the flower all right, with my face, hair, and body drenched in sticky nectar and my body also covered in pollen which stuck to me. The powdery pollen did nothing to make me feel any better. I realized I might be able to laugh about it later, but it wasn't helping my aerodynamics at the time. I ate what I hadn't splashed out, feeling even worse when it hit my stomach. Then I left that flower to attempt to do better with another. I was still hungry and forcing myself not to throw up anything. I needed everything inside me that I could get. The craving had to be stopped. Sooner or later, the hangover would go away and I knew now not to accept invitations from strange men to go to their place for the night. *** I managed to get a breakfast in me and keep it down that morning. I was still developing as I thought. Most of my body reserves had gone into reducing my size, bone structure, and creating wings. Now my body was demanding food in order to complete the process. My tits were still growing and my muscles were still becoming more feminine in appearance. *** After breakfast, I realized I needed to get a bath. The pollen was driving me crazy, especially in a few places on my body. Well, it wasn't only the pollen, but the sticky nectar which had gone into places where it was most uncomfortable. All right, some of the damn stuff went into my vagina. I wanted to itch a lot and that's not wise when you're flying to drop one shoulder so you can itch. You go into an almost instant spin at that point. I know, I found that out and almost crashed. Anyway, I knew there were dangers, though I hadn't seen them yet. There had to be a lot of things bigger than myself. As I spied a body of water, I realized that even taking a bath could be extremely dangerous. What would be just a fish otherwise would now be a monster capable of eating me whole or at least in two or three bites. Though I hadn't seen any birds yet, I had to figure on them probably being about as well. Some of them could be quite dangerous to me. As I thought before, this was quite possible the hardest world to survive on with everything taken into consideration. But it could be done. After all, there were other people and they appeared to be far from becoming extinct. Well, they were surviving as far as I knew. I chose a small puddle instead by the edge of the lake instead of using the lake itself. I didn't want to be bait or a meal. I wasn't very sure how to

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take a bath with wings. I wasn't even sure I should get them wet. I did the best I could to rinse my body, particularly my pussy and hair of the nectar. Then I felt along my wings and located what I could of the nectar and gently rinsed only those portions and did my best to dry them immediately. I left the puddle as quickly as possible when I finished. *** Anyway, not long after that, I happened across a broken branch. The way it was broken afforded me the opportunity to acquire a spear of sorts. As a normal sized person, the spear might not have been much more than a splinter of wood about the length of my middle finger which is about how tall I was then, perhaps a bit more. It wasn't very thick, either. But it was the comfort and security it gave me to take it in my hands and not feel so defenseless anymore. Of course, I had to adjust my flying a bit to carry it with me, but I felt that it was worth it. Anyway, I was still developing in body shape and having to adjust my flying as it was. *** I guess my earlier benefactor didn't hold it against me or maybe he didn't recognize me since I was still developing all over. My hair was changing to blond, my natural color. It was longer and streamed behind me as I flew. My bust was much bigger as well. Anyway, he was soon flying near me and asking what the stick was for. I ignored him. He finally flew off. At any rate, some of the others responsible for saving me the day before saw me and recognized me despite my changes. One woman whom I hadn't met before asked me why I hadn't thanked them yet for saving my life. "I thought I told them thank you," I replied. "Was there more I should have said?" "It's not the saying, it's the laying," she replied. "You ought to know that by now at your age!" It was quite evident then to me that the only appropriate way to say thank you was to give myself to them. One at a time, I hoped. "Each and everyone of them?" I asked. She exclaimed, "Yes, silly! You know that. Every one of them is entitled to you unless whatever was ailing you is still a problem. They're willing to wait until you're better. You all right?" "I guess I am, I just wasn't sure is all. I'm new here, really, and I don't know all the rules of the culture," I explained. "You sure act like you don't. But if you're all right, then you should really get to thanking them. Life's too short to leave anyone out," she said. *** Seeing as I didn't have much choice but to rely on the continued assistance of those people, there was really no other choice than to give

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myself to them. I still didn't know what the dangers were that threatened us. Until I learned what they looked like or where they came from, I needed them more than they needed me. I wound up going with each of them over the next three days. It was the first time I made love to a woman while I was a woman. Strangely, she was the only one I felt comfortable with in bed. Probably I tried harder to please her than any of the three men, one of whom you know took me by getting me drunk. After all, it took four people to rescue me from falling, so I had three people left to thank. Thankfully, I wasn't asked to do any of it in the air. Most likely, they'd seen me fly and didn't want to take the chance, either. I made love to each of them in his or her place and I didn't let them get me drunk, as well. *** Though my anatomy changes finished within the first week on that world, I wasn't strong enough a flyer to reach where I believed the Winker to be. So it was that I was still there after the first week went by. I was still gaining flying ability when the second week ended. I had managed to stay out of trouble and out of others' beds the rest of the time. I even found and fixed up my own place to stay during that time. It wasn't much, but it was a place I could go home to each day. I also wasn't on a nighttime schedule yet. Most flowers aren't open during the night. So, I was forced to eat mostly during the day. I hadn't seen any low flying Winkers yet, either. I was able to ask about the predators they were afraid of. They were afraid of anything bigger, so predators consisted of just about everything bigger than us. We might have been the smartest beings on that world, but we weren't dominant. *** I finally had my first run-in with a predator in my third week on that world. Essentially, it was nothing more than a large insect. Still, it was more than they could handle and I happened to be near when the screams were heard. Foolish or not, I responded to the screams. I still carried my splinter spear with me everywhere, unaware that I probably could reach the Winker if I wasn't carrying it. I flew towards the screams to see an insect advancing on a woman and her children. She was trying to keep them behind her and away from the insect. I had an advantage. The insect didn't hear me coming. I held out my spear and flew straight at the insect with the point first. I'll admit, I wasn't quite ready for the jolt I would take as I moved to spear that insect, managing to pierce its outer skeleton and skewer it. For a moment, it was still moving, then it slowly lost its balance and fell from the branch where it had been backing up the woman and children. It fell to the

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ground and soon was still as death overtook it. I didn't give my actions any further thought as I flew down, looked around, and then proceeded to retrieve my spear. It wasn't easy to retrieve it. I had jammed it into that insect quite well. Before I got it out, she was beside me assisting in getting it out. I was going to fly off without a word, but Elyin insisted on thanking me, which you know by now meant she made love to me. Quite passionately, too. Being more of a woman than I was, she really knew how a woman wanted to feel. I felt greatly satisfied when she finished. Of course, I had to accept staying at her place for that evening so she could thank me properly. However, that wasn't all I received. Each of her children were included in the deal since I had saved them as well. Apparently, age and sex didn't much matter in such cases among them. Either someone thanked someone or became ostracized by the community. I really didn't have the right to cause any of them to be ostracized, so I had no choice other than accept all of their thanks. After all, it wouldn't have been too bad if I was the one to be excluded from the community since I planned on leaving. However, none of them planned on leaving and they needed their community with everyone looking out for everyone to warn of any danger. Thankfully, both the children weren't little. They were each in their puberty, so they wouldn't be children very much longer. *** I had a number of people asking me questions after that incident. They were interested in my spear. They wanted to know where and how I got it. I showed them where and even helped some of them to get their own. I guess it was the first time any of them thought of being able to fight back against some of the predators. Usually they ran or flew away from danger. Had there been some more adults with the woman and her children, they probably would have carried the children away from the danger. *** I noticed soon after that a number of the other people were flying much lower than usual. It was then that I equated my own limits of flying with the extra weight and drag I was carrying. To test my theory, I left my spear at my place and attempted to see how high I could fly. Of course, I was able to fly much higher than before. I flew somewhat better as well. I resolved then that when I searched that night for a Winker, I would have to do so without my spear. If any danger presented itself, I would have to do my best to evade it. *** It was three nights later when I spotted the Winker opening, not as high as I expected it to be nor as large. However, because of my size, that hardly mattered. It wasn't moving very fast so I angled my way towards it

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and looked through it. I only knew that I didn't want to enter some world containing acid rain or other danger I couldn't survive for very long. I looked through the Winker carefully before I entered. I went for the surface as quickly as I could. I was sure that my wings would soon be absorbed as my body went through changes again.

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Chapter 12 I was gripped by an almost immediate hunger even as my body began to change. I wasn't back to full size, but I was growing. Quickly, I looked around to see if I was in any danger on what was another world with green vegetation and blue skies. Seeing I was safe, I began to forage. I wasn't even taking a look at myself yet. I knew I probably had massive changes to go through. At least, I was regaining size so that insects were no longer a threat as they used to be. They're aggravating enough when they can pester you. It's even worse when they can make a meal of you. I thought my wings would be absorbed, but they weren't. I still had them and discovered quite soon that they still worked. They, too, were growing with me. So, awkward as I was while growing, I still had the ability to fly and avoid some dangers. That was quite fortunate for me. The world I was now on was as prehistoric as they come. Huge reptiles roamed freely about and I had no weapons other than my brain. I also discovered I was still female, though a virgin again, I assumed. *** That turned out to be true for a short while. It wasn't long before I was dropped in on by a male with wings and raped. Then he left me lying there unconscious with a broken wing. It was only by good luck that nothing found me then to devour me before I regained consciousness. I discovered my broken wing when I started to use it. The pain was horrible and I slowly sank to my knees in agony as I stopped trying to fly. There was little I could do about it since my wing was behind me and I really couldn't reach it to see what I could do for myself. I could only seek shelter and hope that I could mend. To say I was angry is an understatement. I was furious. I was mad enough to cut off that man's testicles, not for raping me, but for breaking my wing and leaving me helpless in that world. It was only good fortune smiling down on me again that I soon found a small cave which gave me adequate shelter to live in while I saw to my needs and recuperated. I didn't know if the Winkers would be high or low. I had seen them in various places before, so there was no telling where they would be now. The one I came through had been located high on the previous world, but it was low on this one when I entered. However, it was also much too small for me to go through since I had grown nearly back to normal height. I guess I was three-quarters my normal height when my body stopped changing. At least, it was an improvement. Just by growing, I had become more dominant over some of the threats I faced.

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*** A few days later, I was able to find a still pool of water where I was relatively safe for long enough to see how badly my wing was damaged. It was worse than I thought. There appeared to be no way for the wing to mend correctly without attention. For the time being and probably the rest of the time on that world, I was going to be a pedestrian. I was also having to walk carefully since any movement caused excruciating pain as my broken wing flopped about. That meant I had to be even more careful in my own personal security. I couldn't afford to run very fast without receiving enough pain to almost make me pass out. I wasn't in much shape to fight anything, either, though fight I would if cornered. At least, I did have some weapons to fight with since entering that world. I had made them by hand the hard way, chipping at stones with stones until I possessed a crude knife and a spear. Those were what I used for hunting small game to get meat for my meals. There were plenty of fruits and vegetables which I found and checked the old-fashioned way by tasting as I've told you before. I wasn't going to starve to death on that world. Not for modesty but for functionality, I even had a makeshift skirt which helped me carry things about. I had worked hard to make pockets so I could concentrate on just handling my spear when I flew. Even though I could no longer fly, the pockets were still handy for the same purpose. My spear was always at the ready while anything I found to eat could either be placed inside a pocket or eaten right then if I felt secure enough. Other than making some footwear to use, now that I was a pedestrian, there wasn't much else I had to do. *** I kept myself near my cave and water supply as my injury healed. Purposely, I kept a low profile, not letting myself get into any difficulties if it even looked suspiciously dangerous. Though I kept a lookout for a Winker in the early portion of the night, I was mostly on a daytime schedule. Security was foremost, so I didn't want to stumble over anything in the dark. My night vision might have been excellent, but it wasn't perfect. I couldn't spot vines growing low to the ground that I might trip over causing further injury to my already injured wing. It was about a month after my arrival when I spotted one Winker high enough that I couldn't reach it without flying. I had to sadly watch it disappear in the night sky. At least, I was in an area where they occurred. It was a week later when, almost healed, I spotted another Winker. I was some distance from it, but on the chance that it was low enough to the ground, I decided to go towards it. It got darker and my progress was slow, but somehow I managed to reach it before it got away. I looked inside it and wondered for a moment. There wasn't any real

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doubt in my mind that I needed to go through if only to remove my injury. That was one of the few saving graces of finding a Winker. No matter what shape I was in, it was like being reborn when I passed through. The world inside looked much like my current world, no better, no worse. Huge reptiles roamed about and ruled quite obviously. My thought then was to enter the one world momentarily and then return to the one I was in, my wing healed. It was a great idea, but not what happened. At least, I had my gear with me as I stepped through. It didn't occur to me that I was going into some snow as I stepped through or that the snow was quite deep. I had no sensation of the cold on the other side. What was snow had looked like sand. As soon as my weight left the hard inner edge of the Winker and touched the snow, I sank. Too late, I realized the Winker was at different levels as I sank deeply into the snow. I felt a sharp cold sensation inside me and was scared I had somehow impaled myself on something sharp when I sank into that deep snow. I frantically dug at the snow to see how badly injured I was only to find I was still female and had somehow managed to, uh..., Well, let's just say that I thought I was a virgin again, but a very cold one. It was simply snow that forced its way in as my weight packed down into the snow. There was really nothing I could do except wait for the snow to melt and drip out. Struggling against the snow drift, I forced my way out of it to almost collapse on the ground. I looked back at the Winker as it slowly moved away, out of reach. For once, I didn't have a hungry feeling and I hadn't changed in the least. I still possessed a broken wing. I wasn't a virgin again after all. It was only then that I realized I had somehow traveled from one part of the world to another. I was in a more northern clime. What little I wore was cold from the snow, but off in front of me loomed a bright green valley. At least, I was fortunate enough to be at the leading edge of the snow or very near it judging by how much of the snow drift I had to fight through. Disillusioned somewhat, I resolved not to choose anything that looked the same. I was still going through a learning process. I went about finding a secure location to shelter myself in case the snow was moving down with the approach of a winter. As well, I began to accumulate more than enough fruit and vegetables to last me in such an event. *** It was two weeks later when I found another Winker. I approached it cautiously and peered through it. It looked like a tropical paradise. It didn't appear to be the same world. I could tell that the Winker was moving slowly, so I went back to my shelter, grabbed up all the food I could carry and returned to the Winker. I stepped through.

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Chapter 13 With my entry into the new world, I was once again becoming a man. The wings slowly were absorbed into my body, giving me some respite from the cravings of hunger, though not much. I began to return to my normal height as well. The food I brought was still fine and after quickly checking my security, I began to gorge myself if only to also lighten my load. The temperature was oppressive. If you've never been in a tropical location, well, all I can say is don't wear animal skins. They're hot, smelly, and awful uncomfortable. However, the skirt I wore still served several purposes. It carried some of my gear and it wasn't so bad sitting with it between me and the hot sand. My skin was a rich cream in color, making it hard for me to tell at first that I was getting a sunburn. That first night was sheer agony when I tried to sleep. *** To my horror, I soon discovered I was on an island. Uninhabited, but an island nonetheless. I didn't mind it being uninhabited nor an island. If anything, that made my security easier to manage. There wasn't anything big enough to threaten me on the island. In the surrounding waters, it was a different scenario. It wasn't very long before I saw some of the watery predators at work on their prey. Interesting to watch as they were, I made it a point to observe them simply so I would know what dangers I might have to face if I went into the sea. Though I was on an island, it had a water supply of its own which streamed down a mountain near the center of the island. The mountain was what concerned me the most, more than the predators in the sea, more than the lack of inhabitants or large predators, more than the isolation. The mountain smoked and that was a bad enough sign in itself. I wasn't at all pleased to be living at the base of a volcano. Maybe it was a premonition I had at the time when I first saw the smoke. At any rate, I decided that making a boat of some sort might be a wise decision. I surely wasn't going to swim out among those predators. Walking up much of that mountain in search of water was how I discovered that I was on an island. Finding the water coming down the snowtipped slope of that mountain was my first good find. I needed that to survive for more than a few days. Seeing that it was an island was the bad part of that walk. I realized then I was trapped between the volcano and the predators in the sea. Knowing a Winker might not come along for months, a boat seemed a very reasonable precaution and possibly a necessity. I could only hope I would have some warning if the volcano spewed out anything. *** I was glad as I began work on my boat, not having to devote much

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time to anything else that first week. Of course, the first thing I had to do was make some tools. I couldn't fell a tree with my stone knife or stonetipped spear. Besides water, the volcano provided me with suitable stones as well. Using rawhide from my skirt and plant fibers and vines, I made a stone ax to fell my first tree. I was quite glad to have a masculine body again as I began to work. It wasn't easy to fell a tree with such crude tools. With thoughts about how I would propel my craft, I realized a paddle was the only method available to me. I also thought about other considerations such as having a craft that wouldn't capsize. Fortunately, I knew about outrigger canoes, so I planned on my craft being such a vessel. That meant I had to collect a number of vines and fell some more trees. I would also need water if forced to evacuate the island. For that, I found something very much like Earthly coconuts and opened them carefully without splitting them apart. They worked much better than any water container I ever made. Of course, I still devoted the first few hours of darkness to searching for a Winker. I can always fight a predator off or do my best to escape, but there is very little that I or anyone can do if a volcano decides to erupt. I guess you could say I wasn't satisfied with my location. Really that's true. I wasn't going to be, either, until I had my feet planted firmly on my own world, even if I went back as a woman with one short leg, a missing breast, a broken arm, rotten teeth, and whatever else might happen to be. I just wanted to be back home. Still, it was nice not to have to worry about other people and predators. Just one huge mountain concerned me at the time. *** I should have also watched the weather. That can be a killer just as quickly as anything. The storm that came up from the sea hit the island with so much force, I thought for a moment the volcano was erupting. It took me a few moments to realize it was a storm. Then there was little I could do but head inland to keep from being drowned in case the island was hit by any big waves surging in with the storm. I managed to hang onto my tools, not that I couldn't replace those with more, while fighting my way inland with the wind blowing about me and the start of a torrential rain beginning to pound down. I was actually grateful that it was real water pelting me. I had my hands full when the wind ripped my skirt from me, leaving me quite exposed. That wasn't the worst of my loss. Almost two weeks worth of work went out to sea when my outrigger canoe was swept away while I sought shelter. I discovered that when I returned to my work site the next day. It was just a setback and not the end of the world as I saw it. I was still healthy and fit. I had time still to work again on another boat. This time, I resolved to tie

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it up as soon as I had a tree felled. Of course, I had to use vines and fibers to make my ropes with now. Losing the skirt was a setback in its own way. The rawhide was both a convenience and source of material even if it was uncomfortable to wear. I also got a new sunburn that day while working on the new boat. Anyway, I used what I learned in working on the first boat to start off with a better tree and create what I hoped would be a better craft. *** Though my island was uninhabited, that world wasn't by any means. Worse yet, I was on an island that some of the people of that world frequented. I just hadn't toured the entire island to learn that others visited it. Had I done so, I might have been better prepared when they did arrive. *** It was only by mere chance that I heard them first before either of us saw each other. They arrived in a boat, powered by a rickety old engine which backfired once. That was like a warning shot to me. Quickly, I stopped what I was doing, began gathering equipment together, and looked around for the source of the noise. I was looking for them before they began looking for me, so I had a head start on them when I spotted them first. I didn't like their appearance at all. They looked rough and mean. There was no sense of wonderment at seeing the beautiful island I was on. There seemed to be no anticipation of having a vacation or exploring for anything. Plainly, my mind was saying to me to get the hell out of sight. With that in mind, I did. However, I couldn't move my boat yet. It wasn't quite ready to go into the water and I certainly couldn't drag it, for all its weight, up the beach to hide in the vegetation. It was either my hide or the boat. I chose to save my hide. The boat was replaceable. I reached the edge of the vegetation before they even knew I was on the island. However, they spotted my boat and changed their course to touch on the sand near it. From the way they left their boat, armed with weapons, I felt sure my first appraisal was correct. They didn't mean anyone any good. It wasn't long before they walked up to my boat and began looking at it and my footprints. Maybe they might not have decided to search for me if I had been barefooted. However, I still had my footwear so I could walk on the hot sand and they realized that I wasn't just some ignorant savage who was marooned. When they began to follow my footprints through the sand, I did my best to melt away deeper into the jungle without leaving anymore of a trail for them to follow. I didn't want to be seen and shot at since they possessed guns. I hadn't made a bow while on the island since so little of the wood was

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suitable for making one with. My stone knife and spear were just about it. Well, there was also my stone ax, but I didn't think of it was being a very effective offensive weapon against guns. Anyway, I hid away some of my tools in some deep underbrush so I wouldn't have to carry everything with me. I could always retrieve them later or make more if those were found and destroyed. Well, I managed to silently elude them for the rest of that day and didn't bother to try searching for a Winker that evening. I couldn't afford for them to spot me from a distance and take shots at me. What I did do that evening was slip in closer to them to see if I understood their language and maybe learn their purpose for being on the island. *** It wasn't very hard to locate them. They built a fire and that broadcast their position as well as anything could. Moving silently was easy for me. I had nothing to rattle about and only two weapons to be concerned about, one in each hand and ready to use. There was a matter of the distance I had to cover first, but I was in good shape. If anything, I did less work that day than usual because of the interruption. I will admit it crossed my mind to take their boat and leave them to finish the outrigger canoe in order to escape the volcano. After all, there were at least four of them, perhaps one or two more on the boat. They could have finished the outrigger in a week if they put their minds and backs to it. Anyway, I figured that if there were one or two on the boat, I stood a good chance of sneaking up on them in the dark to kick their asses off and take over their boat. However, one thing did come to mind that made me decide not to do that. There was the distinct possibility that I might not be able to figure out their controls, especially if their language or written language was anything I couldn't understand. So it was that I decided first to gather information about them. I might learn if they intended on continuing to hunt for me at the very least. They might talk about why they were in the vicinity in the first place. They weren't on the island to study the volcano from what I'd seen already. Anyway, I thought I had a good chance of listening to them if only because the one or two words I heard shouted among them sounded like words from a language I understood. *** I crept up close to their camp on the beach, staring at them from the foliage of the jungle while some of them drank what was obviously an alcoholic beverage. I counted that as both a positive and negative value for me. It was positive because it meant their reactions would likely be impaired. It was a negative value for me because it made them less predictable in their

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responses. Still, the positive aspect outweighed the negative. I really needed to be closer to their campsite so I could hear them. To do that, I circled their camp by a wide distance and reached the edge of the sea. There, I laid down and let the waves hit me a few times before I rolled up onto the beach so that the black volcanic sand would stick to my skin. It was a poor substitute for camouflage, but it would break up my outline enough that I could crawl on the sand a lot closer to their camp. I also decided to approach them from the flank where they would least expect to find me. I didn't want to get between them and their boat in case one of them happened to go to it for some reason. If they had any concerns about me, I figured on them keeping watch on the edge of the jungle. They didn't appear to me to be very skilled at tactics considering the ease with which I eluded them during the day. When I reached my position on the beach near their camp, I was glad that I did understand their language. *** "Greg! Go to the boat and bring back another bottle after you check on the bitch. Make sure the ropes are tight," one man said. I had no idea then what a bitch was. That was a new word. It was close to hitch, so my first thought was that it had something to do with tying the boat to its anchor. It seemed reasonable at the time. I would be concerned about having my boat drift away without me, volcano or no volcano on the same island. "Why don't you do it yourself? You ain't the boss, you know," the man, I assumed to be Greg, said. The first man cocked his gun and pointed it at Greg before saying, "I'm in charge until the boss gets back. Now do as I say or the boss is going to have one less hired hand on board." Greg got up and dutifully went down the beach to the boat to check on the bitch and bring back another bottle of alcohol, I presumed. In the campfire light, I got a good count of the number of men. There were five and Greg made six. If Greg was having to go check on the bitch, then that meant that there wasn't anyone else on board. I decided then that as soon as Greg returned, I could check out their boat and see if there was anything I could understand about it. Maybe, I could take some tools to help me do my work. After all, they had chased me with guns in their hands. They had destroyed my outrigger canoe during the day. That much was obvious to me now in the flickering fire light. If I wanted to, I could claim their boat in exchange for mine. That would be fair recompense for my lost efforts. After all, I hadn't bothered or harmed them. They deliberately touched shore on my island and interfered with me. That might sound like stealing, at first, but survival trains hard. I

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considered it justice. If you don't believe me, try surviving anywhere without anything. You'll either make it or die, unless someone watches over you to rescue you when there's no doubt that you would have died. Then it's not really survival. Then it's just a test that indicates you wouldn't make it. Sure, I could have started on a third boat after they left, providing they didn't stay so long that the volcano became a more active partner in any decisions. I was willing to do just that, but I was going to check out their boat anyway and get something for my lost efforts. Doubtless, they didn't intend on leaving me alive had they spotted me earlier. I was already sure at that point that they intended on killing me. That had to be part of the reason for destroying my boat. They were making sure that I couldn't get away by sea. They weren't very good as sailors, either, or they would have realized how much my boat still needed work. I watched as Greg went to the boat and went inside. That seemed like a strange place to keep the bitch. Then I remembered he had to acquire the bottle of alcohol. I must have glanced away for a moment and not seen him when he was back on top until I heard his feet splash as he left the boat. I had to assume then that the bitch was secure and their boat wouldn't drift away. As Greg made his way to the camp, I slowly crept back from them. I wanted as much time to look over their boat before they turned in. It was slow going but the men were soon drinking and talking loud among themselves. Meanwhile, I made my way down towards the shore once more. As much as I didn't like entering that water, I took the chance in order to wash the sand from my body and get to the boat undetected. Keeping my ears attuned to the sounds of the men, I reached the boat and slowly climbed aboard. Not being familiar with their boat, I moved slowly while keeping a low profile. There was no one on the topside of the boat as I suspected. It wasn't hard to find the same entrance I saw Greg use to go inside the boat. However, I did have to lay down my spear to do so. It was too long to take inside and would have been a sure way of making unnecessary noise in the dark since I had no idea what was inside. *** It was a good thing I moved slowly as I went inside the boat. I wasn't expecting steps so soon. My view of Greg hadn't been all that good when he entered. Carefully, I felt for each step until I felt a solid deck beneath my feet. I moved slowly, letting my eyes adjust more to the greater darkness. While I moved, my left hand retained my stone knife and I felt about with my right hand. I was startled to say the least when my hand touched something soft that moved. Almost instantly, I froze. I realized then there was a person on

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board after all. At first, I thought the person was asleep. Then I discerned movement and moved quickly to put my knife to the person's throat and whispered, "Don't utter a sound or I'll kill you!" It was as I moved to a better vantage point to search my captive that some light came in a porthole. I discovered my captive was their captive, already bound and gagged. I was shocked to say the least. I wondered what the captive felt about the situation, but there hardly seemed to be much time for that. Realizing that those men had no good intentions for either the captive or myself, I reasoned we had mutual enemies. Quickly, I searched around now that there was no need to worry about the captive. I didn't remove the ropes or gag since I needed to search for other things first. It was just good fortune I found a knife which I took. There wasn't much time to really do a good search since I had no idea how long that bottle would last. I decided then to just pick up the captive and get off the boat. There would be plenty of time to release the captive in the jungle and maybe find out who those men were and what their purpose was. I reached down, picked up the captive, discovering the captive was a woman, slung her over my shoulder, and made my way out of the boat's cabin. Once on the deck, I retrieved my spear and tossed it into the sand where I could pick it up. Then I set the woman down on the edge, climbed off, put her over my shoulder again, and walked to my spear. Once I had the spear in hand again, I quickly made a wide circle around the camp and into the jungle. *** I didn't release the ropes from my captive until I was a mile or two inside the jungle. That was partly so she wouldn't be heard if she screamed or shouted. After all, I had already threatened her as they doubtlessly had. I also wanted the ropes that bound her. They were much better than the vines I was using. *** "I'm going to release you now. I'm sorry for threatening you on the boat. I thought you were one of them. I hope you'll forgive me," I said. Then I began to untie her ropes carefully so I could reuse them. She removed the gag herself. Her mouth was dry, but I had stopped near the stream of water, so that wasn't much of a problem. "Thanks," she said. "Where'd you come from?" I answered, "Never mind that. I need to know who those men are and what they're up to. They chased me earlier today and destroyed the canoe I was building. They had you tied in their boat, so I figure they're up to nothing good. So, you do the talking and keep your voice down low. I need to be able to hear other things as well, in case they discover you're missing and come looking for you."

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She said, "Well, they're pirates or like them. I was kidnaped by them and they expect a ransom." I replied, "Then you don't have any problem with me killing any of them to defend us?" "Not in the least. I'll even help. What can I do?" she said. "Nothing right now. Do you know how to operate their boat?" I asked. She shook her head. "Okay, then we should get some rest. They'll be looking for you tomorrow. We'll have to evade them until they give up," I said. "What about you? Where'd you come from?" she asked. I told her, "I was marooned here. I've been trying to build a boat so I can get back home eventually. My first boat was close to finished when a storm washed it out to sea. Those pirates just destroyed my second boat today." She asked, "Don't you know how to operate their boat?" "I didn't get a look at the controls. Anyway, I didn't know where the bitch was to get the anchor raised with," I replied. "Bitch? Don't you mean winch?" she asked. "Uh, sure. I got my tongue flabbered, is all. I meant winch," I replied, unaware that I was revealing more with every new word she didn't understand or recognize though the meaning was sometimes obvious. "Okay, that happens to me sometimes, too. I guess we all get our tongues, uh, flabbered once in a while," she replied. "So, where do you hail from? Are you from the United States? You sound like an American." "You guessed it," I replied. "What part? The south?" she asked. I said, "You're very good at guessing. How'd you know?" "It was just the slowness in your speech. You're quite strong. You carried me quite a distance. That was at least a mile, maybe two," she said. Just to keep from saying I was from the same place, I asked her, "Where are you from?" "Me? I'm from Baltimore. You ever been there?" she responded. "No, I don't think I have. I'm certain I would have remembered Baltimore," I replied. "Gosh, I would hope so. It's not like it's a small town. Are you from a small town in the south?" she asked. Rather than say yes, since in my own world I lived on the outskirts of a city, I said no so that I wouldn't have to name the town or describe life in it to her. I guess you can understand that I was trying not to appear like a loon to her. "Which city do you hail from?" she asked. "Why not guess again? You seem to be rather good at guessing," I

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suggested. "Raleigh, no, that's too far north. You're probably more from the deep south. Maybe Charleston or Tallahassee. Am I close?" she asked. "Very," I replied. "Tallahassee in Florida. You must be from there." I said, "You're right. Have you ever been there?" "No, but I'd like to go there sometime. I've been to Charleston and you just didn't quite fit the typical Charleston man," she said. "Why not?" I asked. "Because you're naked and you don't seem to be concerned at all because of that. You act like you're used to not wearing much. You probably had on only a swimsuit when you were marooned, didn't you?" she said. "Right again. That's all I had and the wind was so bad that it ripped what was left of it from my body during that storm. Gleck! I even had to make a knife out of stone," I replied. "My hearing must be off. Was that gleck or heck?" she asked. "I'm not sure what I said. Does it matter?" I asked. She said, "No, just wondering." I knew then I'd done it again. I needed to watch my choice of words and not use anything in the wrong context if I knew what it even meant. I was just glad the majority of what we were saying was understandable. It was all that much more reason for me to believe that people from one world had traveled through the Winkers before me, populating some of those worlds. Possibly they represented one or more of the more technologically advanced worlds. Then again, the technologically advanced worlds could have sprouted from the primitive one in a Garden of Eden theme. Of course, that would mean my speculation on where the Winkers came from was wrong, but I could live with that. It wasn't like I was up for a prize in physics. It took a short while longer before she finally quit with the questions. I had to remember that I was from Tallahassee in the United States and I was an American. I guessed that meant I was a cream colored person, though I was rather tan by then. I wondered what other kinds of people were in this world. I had seen some worlds through small Winkers where there were two and sometimes three different kinds of people. I'd even been on some. Oh, I had to remember that Tallahassee was in the deep south, wherever that was. In fact, I didn't even know yet which direction was south on this world. Sure, my own world has a magnetic pole referred to as the North Pole. Another similarity among advanced cultures, I discovered. If these people were advanced enough, and the boat engine and guns seemed to indicate some advancement, then they would have one, too. Was the deep south their South Pole? Did I live in a cold environment? No, that didn't fit in with wearing only a swimsuit. It had to be a warm climate. It was just all confusing

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to me. It was best that I let her volunteer information and, sooner or later, some of it might make sense. *** We were awakened by the gunshot coming from the beach and reverberating through the jungle. I took that as meaning her disappearance had been discovered. I wondered if they would connect her disappearance with me or not. It didn't really matter. We had a common enemy whether they did or not. She was considerably rested as was I. I woke her since she still was a little confused about what had happened and where we were. "Come on, time to move inland. They know you're gone now. They'll come looking for you and me," I said. 'Yeah, sure. What time is it anyway?" she asked. "It's just before sunrise," I answered. She asked, "Sure, can I have another five minutes?" "You can have all the time you want, but that depends on whether you want them to catch you or not. I won't be here," I replied. "Where are you going?" she asked. I said, "Woman, they have weapons. All I have is two knives and a spear. I think they have enough that I don't want to try to face them in the daylight." "Oh. You don't have a gun, then?" she said. "No, I don't have a gun. What you see is all I have," I replied. She took the time to look at me closely from head to toe in the early morning light. She smacked her lips and said, "Yeah, I see what you mean. Wrong kind of gun, but awfully big caliber." I didn't answer her because I didn't quite understand what she was talking about then. I did take her hand and begin to move inland away from the pirates. We went at an easy pace simply because I didn't know what kind of shape she was in. *** Despite their inability at tactics, there were six of the pirates and they did have enough sense to spread out. Also, the woman was leaving tracks as we moved along. My own were hardly visible most of the time. I only hoped the pirates wouldn't discover her trail and begin to move in on us. It wasn't long after we started our brisk pace that I realized she wasn't in very good shape. She was still quite stiff and such, which I attributed to her being tied up for awhile. We did a little bit of conversation as we moved inland on the island, but not much and always in a whisper. "How long have you been on this island?" she asked. "Oh, days and days. I didn't try to keep track of how many. I was more concerned with building a boat. Maybe about thirty or so days," I answered.

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"You've been marooned for a month? Wow! That's exciting! To think that you survived with nothing and managed to start building a boat. That's beautiful! You must be awfully smart!" she exclaimed. "Shhh! Not so loud in your adoration. All I did was survive so I could get back home," I said. "Maybe so," she said in a whisper once more. "Still that's quite an achievement for anyone in this day of computers and rockets." It was my turn to be stunned. This was a modern society, as modern as my own. At least, I could admit to being a computer programmer as far as my background was concerned. "What do you do normally?" she asked. "I program computers," I answered. "Gee! All this and brains, too! I guess if I had to choose someone to be on a deserted island with, you'd be a great choice," she replied. I simply said, "Thanks." I was grateful she didn't act like she owed me thanks as some cultures insisted on giving. We didn't have time to pleasure ourselves, even if her culture did practice that. *** It wasn't long after that when we heard some gun shots. It didn't take me long to figure out one of them had found our trail and was signaling the others. "Hurry, they've found your trail," I said. "My trail? What about yours?" she asked, before she glanced back and said, "Oh, I see what you mean. Sorry." "That's all right. Keep moving. They only have to follow. We have to find a way to hide our trail and then us," I replied. *** I should have known they would catch up to us. Spread out as they were, they had a rather small area to search in the beginning in order to find our trail. It really hadn't taken them very long at that. By the time of the second signal, the sun was rising and we made much better progress, but so did they. And they didn't have to worry about leaving a trail. It was time for some action. As we moved briskly along towards the mountain, I thought of what I knew about the island and how to use it against them. It was then that I began to formulate my plans. I began to work with the rope to make a trap that might cut down the odds some. We were into jungle where there were vines. They would also be useful. The rope might be more important to use in climbing, so I quit trying to use it and watched instead for a suitable vine. When I spotted one shortly after thinking of a use for one, I reached out and snatched at it until I had about as much as I could pull. Then I cut the vine and coiled it on one arm. "What's that for?" she asked.

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"A trap to cut down the odds. There's six of them and only two of us. I don't like those odds." "Oh," she replied. *** We reached the base of the mountain. Soon we would be in their sight. Then they might be able to shoot us from the bottom of the mountain. I had to assume they wanted her alive for ransom. That would be the only thing to keep them from shooting wildly about. Our pace slowed significantly as we began to go uphill. There wasn't any choice about that. We either went up or tried to lose them in the jungle and she was leaving too visible a trail for that. I gave her instructions on where to go when we reached the first place for a trap. I had to hope they didn't spot us easily and continued to follow her trail. At least, the first trap should work. I only hoped it eliminated at least one of them. *** Quickly, I performed my task of rigging some boulders to roll down on them and caught up with the woman whose name I hadn't asked. In fact, she hadn't even asked mine. That was just as well, I figured. Maybe my name was too unusual and a dead giveaway. Maybe it didn't sound like an American name or someone who lived in Tallahassee, wherever that was. We kept going up the mountain, usually at an angle so that we didn't have to work as hard in our climb. I began to wish I had picked up more than one vine. It was too late though and I quickly gave up on planning to rig another trip trap. I helped her climb over a boulder, one of the few times I knew we weren't leaving a trail. I wondered if there was some way to throw them off our trail, but I didn't have any ideas. Then I realized the boulder we climbed over might be a second trap. "Go on. I'm going to rig another trap," I said. *** I used my stone knife to dig away at the base of the boulder so that it was about to topple. It wasn't easy work. When it was just about to give, I used my stone knife to wedge it so it wouldn't fall. Then I carefully dug away some more dirt and rock from under it. Now all its weight was upon the stone knife. Hopefully, when they tried to climb over it, they'd make the knife wobble loose and one of them should go down the mountain with the boulder. *** I caught up with the woman again. She was wiping her brow from the morning heat which was starting to build up. Clearly, she wasn't too used to being in the tropics.

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"We'll be near some water soon. You can get a drink there and rest, but only for a short while," I said. "Thanks. This dress is killing me," she replied. "Can I borrow your knife?" I handed her the knife I took and watched as she trimmed away some of the dress. She was about to discard it down the mountain side when I stopped her. I said, "No, give it to me. We may find a use for it yet." She handed me that portion of her dress and the knife. We continued on. It wasn't very much longer before we reached the stream. She sat down in it just to let some of the water run over her while she rinsed the rest of herself with handfuls of water. Occasionally, she took a sip. I drank what I felt was safe for the amount of activity I figured on doing. Then we were back on the move. *** It wasn't very long after we left the stream when I just barely picked up the sound of rocks rolling down the mountain. Someone had tripped my first trap. There was even a gunshot accompanying the rock slide. Either one of them had fallen and discharged his weapon while falling or maybe one of the others shot the injured man so no one would have to care for him. Either way, it was one less bullet they had and maybe one less man. I also knew they were catching up to us. There wasn't any doubt of that. The woman and I weren't going as fast as I could alone. Regardless, we kept going. We had no choice, just as I had no choice often enough before. *** It wasn't long after that when the large boulder went crashing down the mountainside into the jungle below. The sound reverberated from the wall of jungle and added the sound of breaking trees to it. There was a voice that I then heard, screaming at us from far back. "God damn you!" was what the voice yelled. I took that as a compliment and to mean that I had either killed or injured one of them. I hoped it was more than one. We continued onward. *** I almost couldn't believe it when I happened to spot a Winker during the daytime. It was floating quite serenely just above the mountain trail we were following. We had a way of escape, though I wasn't sure if the woman would be willing to go through any of the things I had been through. "What's that?" she said. "That's a Winker," I answered. "It's a portal to another world. Maybe my world." She stopped suddenly and looked at me. "You're not from Tallahassee, then?"

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I replied, "Nope. Never been to it or any of those other places. I just didn't want you to think I was crazy." "So, what's your world like?" she asked. I said, "We don't have time for that. You need to know this. If you go into the Winker, your body may change in more ways than you can imagine. You might not be able to get back to this world, whatever it is." "We call it Earth," she replied. I said, "Okay, Earth. About the only thing I can tell you is that some of those worlds are more dangerous. If you enter, the first thing to do is look around you carefully to see if you're in danger. The second thing is to get under cover and find food. You'll be ravenous. Your body will be demanding twice what you normally eat." "There goes my diet," she said. "With my luck, it'll probably be four times what I eat then." I went on, saying, "After about a week, your change will be complete. The best time to find a Winker in order to return is at night. Look for one to shine then and wink at you for only a moment. Try to figure out which direction it's going and head for there. Always be careful." "Aren't you coming with me?" she asked. I answered, "Yes, but one of us could get hurt. If so, you need to know how to survive in case it's me who gets hurt. You'll have little choice but to leave me behind." "No, I couldn't do that. You rescued me and I owe you," she replied. "Hopefully, neither of us will be hurt. Avoid strangers if you can and don't lose anything you do have. Take this knife. I'll keep the spear. We should both be armed. We need to hurry now. That Winker is moving so that it will soon be away from the mountain. If we don't get to it in time, then neither of us are escaping those men." "Okay. Tell me more about the other worlds," she said. "There isn't time. They're getting closer," I said, as I looked at the Winker looming almost above us. "I'm going to give you a boost up to it. The inner edge is solid. Grab hold and climb in. I'll toss you the rope, so don't leave the edge yet. Hang on tightly and I'll climb up after you." She nodded and I began to boost her up. She clamped the knife between her teeth and caught hold of the inner edge of the Winker with both hands. A moment later, she was sitting on the edge looking inside the Winker. She exclaimed, "You're right! It is another world and it's beautiful." "The rope!" I said loudly as I tossed one end up. The rope smacked her on the leg and she almost lost her balance. However, it did remind her of what she had to do. I tossed the end of the rope a second time to her and she caught hold of it. She began to fix it about her so I could begin to climb.

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*** It was just then that a shot rang out. I turned and saw the man who had caught up with us. He was beginning to decide which of us he needed to shoot. "Get her back down from that thing!" he ordered. He should have been watching me more. He never expected the underhanded throw I made with the spear at him. My spear caught him in the chest and stuck straight out. His gun discharged again as he clutched at the spear. Then he fell from the trail to bounce and roll down the mountain. I didn't see anymore of the men and began to hope then that we could both get away. I turned to climb the rope and it slipped from her hands. Then I saw the blood on her chest as the Winker began to move too far away from the mountain for me to risk jumping for. I hollered, "Go inside! You'll heal with the change! Remember everything else I told you! I'll try to reach you and get you back to Earth!" "Thank you. I never got your name!" she gasped. "It's Dav! What's your name so I can ask for you when I get to that world?" "Danielle!" she replied. "Tell me the color of the grass and sky!" I shouted. "They're the same!" "The same as what?" I asked. She gasped out, "The same as Earth!" "Okay, now I know what color world to look for you on! Take care of yourself! I'll come for you as soon as I can find another Winker!" I hollered back. Then she fell through into the Winker.

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Chapter 14 It didn't take me very long to work my way back to see if the other men were out of action. My traps had done quite well. Two had gone down into the jungle with the boulder. Three were at the base of the mountain with about the same results from the rock slide I rigged. I found one of their guns and another knife. I also took some of their clothes since Danielle had indicated the people of Earth wore clothes. Eventually, I worked my way to where the last man went over the mountain with my spear in him. I recovered his weapon and a few more items. I wound up with two guns, some clothes, two water bottles, enough bullets to take on a group similar to them in size, and about four knives which I kept on me. I had too much experience with losing weapons to take a chance on entering the next Winker without all the preparation I could manage. I now had a boat to go through freely in search of more equipment. I reached it by that afternoon and looked at it carefully in the daylight. The controls were quite simple and I even tested it once just to be sure I could. Inside the boat, I also found some books and maps. I learned a little about the Earth from that and from listening to their radio. I went easy on the radio so that I could start the boat in case the volcano erupted. There was also a cache of food on board, which I tried and then fixed up a bag of to carry along with me for when I entered a Winker. But the most important find I made on that boat was the grappling hook. With that, if the Winker Danielle entered comes along over the mountain trail once more, then I won't need anyone's help to get inside it. Still, there's no guarantee that the Winker I go into will necessarily be the one she went into. It might turn out to be yet another world of green grass and blue skies. That doesn't matter. I won't give up. I'll just keep searching every world with green grass and blue skies until I do find her. Anyway, Bob, that's where your sister went. I've been going up that mountain every night now for the last month, just waiting for that Winker or another one to go by, hoping that it leads to the world she entered. I'm going to get Danielle back to Earth first, before I continue searching for my home. You can either help me find her or stay here, Bob. Either way, don't get in my way. }|{the end }|{

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