Actually Alison

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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

S. J. Benjamin

and the Wycked Womyn

 "Where do you turn
  when you don't fit in,
  even in the wizarding world?..."

Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction using characters from the world of the Harry Potter novels, which is trademarked by J. K. Rowling. I do not claim ownership of any characters or features of the world I write here that bear any resemblance to those contained in the Harry Potter novels. The story and situation I have written are a product of my imagination and I do not ascribe them to official story canon. This is a work intended for entertainment and enlightenment outside of the official storyline created by Rowling. I am not profiting financially from the creation and publication of this story.

Chapter 1

A silent cacophony of baking implements littered the normally immaculate sink and countertop at 47 Iris Drive. Batter, flour, and granules of sugar covered bowls, measuring cups, and the counter, which also sported brown dots of vanilla and something that resembled small splashes of blood. The unbroken yolks of a dozen eggs sat neatly in a bowl, awaiting some other fate. A faint sweet smell pervaded the room, soon to grow stronger due to the heat that was radiating from the oven. No one was there to witness this scene of pleasant anticipation.

Sam was sitting at his desk, doing his bible studies, when a soft tap at the window made him look up suddenly. And there it was, a huge grey owl with a letter in its beak! After a moment's wild hesitation where he wondered if he should call out, "mom!", Sam decided best not. His mother was not one for being bothered at the best of times, and she and Father had been picking at each other lately. Not badly--she always deferred to him when he put his foot down--but enough that everyone in the house was a bit on edge.

Sam cautiously opened the window, trying to block as much of it as possible to discourage the animal flying into the house, but the owl calmly stepped down off the ledge onto the table that stood below the window and looked up at him. It dropped the letter onto the table, turned slowly, spread its wings, and flew off. Sam realized he had been holding his breath. He let it out and picked up the letter. He opened it and his heart leapt. He had been accepted to a school! He knew his parents had been discussing the possibility, but he thought they had said they probably couldn't afford boarding school yet, much as they wanted him to be around fellow Christians. But here it was!

He was about to call out, "mom!" again, and a second time he bit his tongue. His eyes had scanned the letter more closely, and several words jumped out at him. Warlock. Wizards. Witchcraft. He felt sick. There had to be some mistake. Perhaps his parents had accidentally applied to a school for Wiccans or satanists or something, just because they saw it was religious. This would never do. They would be angry if they even saw this. He had a sudden panicked feeling and moved to throw it away. He was half way across the room when the front door flew open behind him and his mother's voice called out, "oh, what's that, dear?"

Sam froze and his mother briskly walked up and pulled the letter from his hands. He stammered, "I-I don't know."

He expected her to say something snide or act surprised and then scoff and throw it away, but the moment the letter was in her hands she went grey, eyes wide with horror. She looked around the room in frantic circles, muttering "no, no, no," as if looking for a place to hide the letter herself, then rounded on Sam, looking stern and a bit panicked, her voice high. "Where did you get this?"

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Sunday, January 24, 2021

Actually Alison

This is the story of the biggest revelation of my adult life. 2020 brought enormous change, growth, hardship, and tragedy to so many people. For me, it was a year of new beginnings that completely rewrote my marriage and my identity.

Part 1

Books were everywhere - in neat rows on a long table, in boxes, and lining the shelves of the next room. Shelves filled with glasses, china, odds-and-ends made of plastic, and DVDs lined the wall. Racks of miscellaneous clothing filled the large room where I stood with my brother and my mom. A small town thrift store. And I, to all appearances a middle aged man, was picking through female tops. "Hey, what about this one?", my brother said, holding up a promising specimen.

I held it up across my chest. "Too narrow in the shoulders. Too bad; I really like the pattern."

A few minutes later I was hopelessly tangled up in a slightly-too-small dress with lacy edges, trying to get it back off over my shoulders and glasses without tearing anything. Then I saw it--a stretchy long red dress, amorphous enough to fit over my broad shoulders. The dressing rooms were all closed for Covid, so with another nervous glance around I pulled it on over my clothes. Slightly lumpy outlines of clothes underneath notwithstanding, it really worked. I had to have it. The store owner came in then and said something like, "I don't wanna know, but glad you're having a good time."

I sighed inwardly. I was surprised I wasn't more embarrassed or annoyed with him but somehow I really didn't care. I knew what I wanted, which was rare in my sometimes dissolute life, and I was suddenly realizing that what I wanted most of all right now was red women's clothing. I finally emerged with two red coats, a tan pebbled leather cross-body purse, four pairs of shoes ranging from flats to murderously high heels, several lacy or brightly colored tops, the stretchy red dress, and a huge smile.

My epiphany had been slowly building for years, like a pressure cooker with the valve stuck shut. In the end it was mushrooms that blew my valve wide open and released a new self. It was fall, and my wife Hannelore (pronounced hahn uh LORE uh, like Honolulu) and I decided to use one of the last warm days that remained to go kayaking and camping. We brought along a little bag of shriveled dry caps and stems. I had been wanting to try them, not just for the bucket list experience but because I had read that they had more potential to cause permanent and positive changes to the brain with less potential for negative consequences than just about any substance or treatment known. I thought a lot about the risk and the sentiment that "if it ain't broke don't fix it", and I realized that something in me felt broken enough that I welcomed more than feared a change to my brain.

I had been in long-overdue therapy for anxiety earlier in the year. It had done a lot of good, but I still had this nagging feeling that had been there for all of my adult life, that something was wrong. Just around the corner, I felt like there would be some massive discovery of past trauma or something and I would be able to heal and move past it. But decades of alcohol, marijuana, yoga, meditation, introspection, journaling, and even some experiments with salvia, acid, and DMT had done nothing to uncover anything wrong except that I felt anxious all the time to the point where I couldn't even see it, like red tinted glasses you just get used to because you've been wearing them for so long that you've forgotten that green exists. The anxiety was much better since therapy, but the thing was still there, a deeper shadow in the dark part of my mind. Something I had forgotten or missed that was huge and important; something wrong.

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