Fantasy LGBTQ+ Teens & Young Adult

    "So, you are there," Jesse yelled, looking skywards. "I suppose I should be grateful you stopped the rain! Hallelujah!" For three days, Jesse and her friends huddled under a tarpaulin, sheltering from the elements. The Heaven's closing was nice, but it was no blessing. And it did not change Jesse's mood, which was best described as mad. They were in a pickle, and there would be no praising the Good Lord today.

So: They were on the run; an evil person called The White Man was hunting them; they had escaped the Nest, which no one ever did, they had no food and few supplies.

Jesse thought she should practice gratitude like the Church's Leaders had taught for a crisis like this. Then she felt how damp her clothes were and got madder. She made a fist, looked to where the sky should be and screamed, "I have nothing to be thankful for!" 

 The time under the tarp had been arduous. Cockroaches crawled over them, giant black rats chewed at their shoes, and hungry mosquitoes sucked their blood. "We can't live like this," Jesse screamed. The Jacks tried to make her smile with their "we're off on an adventure to save-the-world" spin on things, but Jesse was not buying it. They always said dumb stuff like that.

The Jacks were twin brothers and Jesse's best and only friends. There was never a time without them. It was like having brothers, or better still, a mom or dad. Jesse had neither. Without the Jacks, she would be alone. The twins were both named Jack, which was odd to Jesse. "Perhaps your mom was just too sick to think of two names," she once told them. The Jacks shrugged it off. They didn't think it strange at all. So, Jesse took to calling them Jacks instead of Jack and Jack. It was easier that way. You should too. After all, it was impossible to tell the two apart - they looked, dressed, and acted the same. They even spoke the same sentences!

Jacks knew Jesse before the change. They had asked one question about it, she did her best to answer, and that was that. They never spoke of it again. Jacks also found the girl, Kim, who had asked for their help to get to California, to finish the Colouring, and save the world.

Crazy huh?

Jesse rubbed her eyes awake and looked at Kim. She was still sound asleep, and drool dripped from the corner of her mouth. If someone had told Jesse five days ago that her Prince charming would be a girl, she would have kicked them where it hurt.


It had been a Sunday which meant no school and no work at the Nest. Jesse laid on her bunk bed watching her favourite streaming service Classic Netflix when Jacks had charged into her room. "Jesse, you need to come."

They stood in the doorway of her dorm, wet. They had been outside, which annoyed Jesse. “No one,” she thought, “should be outside.”



She sighed. "I'm watching Riverdale."

“You’ve watched it like a hundred times. We have something to show you. Quick.”

They headed to Jacks dorm and quietly opened the door. "The others are all in the dining room," said Jacks. "Go on, take a look."

“At what?” Jesse asked.

“You’ll see.”

"This better not be some stupid trick. Otherwise, I will punch both of you. Got it?"

Jesse peered into the darkened room, her eyes adjusting to the dim light. On the edge of a bed, wrapped in a blanket, sat a girl. Jesse saw that she, too, was wet, and she was also shivering.

Jesse gave Jacks an angry look.

“We found her outside,” they said.

“Is she vaccinated?”

“She doesn’t have a card.”

“And you bought her here?”

“We had to.”

Jesse knew from the announcements on Netflix that this wasn’t safe. “She could make us all sick?”

“We know. But she asked for you.”

“What do you mean she asked for me?”

The Jacks looked at each other, not knowing what to say.

"Speak up, Jacks, or I'm seriously going to hurt you both. I swear. What do you mean she asked for me?"

Jacks gulped. “She asked if we knew the girl in the wrong body.”

Jesse’s legs wobbled. Her darkest moments flooded back, catching her by surprise. “I don’t understand.”

"Neither do we. We'll go and get her something hot to drink. You stay here, see what she says. Okay? " They scurried off like startled mice, leaving Jesse alone with the girl. For a moment, Jesse was glad they were gone. She needed room to breathe. Jesse glanced down at her feet, took a breath and looked back at the girl. The girl's eyes opened wide, and Jesse wasn't sure if she was terrified or surprised.

"Do you have a name?" Jesse asked, sitting next to the girl. The girl's dark hair fell down across her pale, oval-shaped face, and Jesse resisted the temptation to brush it aside. The girl looked 14, Jesse’s age. Her eyes were midnight dark, like Jesses and her skin had a slight pigment to it, also like Jesses but not as dark. The girl turned and met Jesse's gaze.

"It’s you." Her voice was soft and tender.


“The girl in the boy’s body.”

Jesse shut her eyes and thought back to the time when she had been a boy called Jose. Her chest thumped as her heart skipped a beat. She wanted to run away, fast. It was crazy, the girl was a stranger they found outside, where no one was allowed, and she knew Jesse’s secret. Jesse opened her eyes. She felt relieved. The weight on her shoulders shifted. The girl did not frighten her.

Still, she was mad. “How do you know that? Only Jacks knows that.”

The girl sputtered. "The Speak is sorry for the mistake. If she could change things, she would. But you are on the right path, and stay on the path. That is what the Speaks says."

Jesse’s world started to bend in all sorts of directions. “What’s the Speak?”

“The Speak tells me things. The Speak told me to look for you. To look for the girl in the boy’s body. She told me you would help me.”

The girl looked at her through desperate eyes. Jesse’s mind raced as she tried to understand why the universe had crossed their paths. She was stumped.

“My name is Kim,” the girl revealed.


Jacks farted. That was Jesse's cue to get out from under the trap; God knows what those two have been eating. Her legs felt uneasy as she stood. And sore. Sleeping rough was brutal. She stretched and scratched the bites scattered up her arms, took a breath and screamed, "I feel disgusting! Are you happy now!" Jesse wanted a shower.

They camped in the doorway of an old McDonalds, no longer “lovin' it", and boarded up. A large sign with bold red letters read CONTAINMENATED DO NOT ENTER. Rubbish drifted down the road in either direction, discarded like autumn leaves. The skeletons of old carbon cars, abandoned before things got terrible, turned orange with rust. A giant billboard across from their makeshift camp warned, STAY INDOORS OR DIE. The message sent a shiver tingling down Jesse's spine. What she wouldn't give to be back indoors? At least, she thought, there was no one else about.

A drone floated not too far above. It carried groceries from Whole Foods to a Locker, no doubt. Jesse hoped to be a Locker one day, living in a lovely apartment in the quarantine zone, working from home, watching her favourite shows on big screen TV, her shopping ordered online and arriving by drone, so she never had to leave and go outside.

Stashed in the doorway to the McDonald’s were the two bags they had escaped the Nest with. Before planning their next move, Jesse wanted to do an inventory. She opened Jacks first. Why do boy's things always smell? Inside were two slingshots, three old iPhones, one with a cracked screen, one screwdriver, one pair of scissors, one bottle of hair bleach, a bunch of electrical cables, Jacks’ vaccination cards, and two Kindles. The boys had packed no clothes. Typical, thought Jesse. In her bag was a change of underwear for her and Kim, two toothbrushes, her Kindle and vaccination card, a hairbrush, two pairs of clean socks and a flashlight. The food was all gone. Jesse looked to the sky again. “How are we meant to save the world with just this?” she asked God.“ Answer me!” Jesse wished they had special powers like kids do in the TV shows. As she zipped the bags, Kim's shaved head emerged from under the tarp.

"Hi." She spoke so softly Jesse sometimes had trouble hearing her. But every time Jesse saw her, her tummy went funny.

"Hi." Their eyes locked, acknowledging their secret bond.


The girl’s eyes had pleaded with Jesse: “Will you help me?”


"I need to get the Colouring finished. When it is finished, then we will know everything."

Jesse had decided that the girl was speaking in riddles.

The girl continued. “The Speak said I could trust you.”

“Trust me with what?”

“I need to show you.”

"Okay then, show me."

The girl had looked sad and a little hopeless. “Not now,” she said. “When can we be alone?”

That night, when the Nest lights were dimmed, and the teenage orphans and their supervisors slept, Jesse returned to Jacks dorm, where the girl had bedded down on a spare bunk. Jesse put her hand over Kim's mouth. "Shhh, it's me, Jesse. Let's go."

The girl's eyes bolted open, startled. Jesse saw she was scared, then saw her smile on realizing the hand belonged to Jesse. Kim rolled out of bed. She was still in her dirty clothes after she had refused to change into some of Jesse's, but she was dry. The two hurried down the long corridor towards the bathrooms. Once inside, out of sight of the cameras, Jesse drilled Kim.

"If you don't tell me what I want to hear, I'm calling the Supervisor, and he can send you to the camp with all the other unvaccinated folks."

"I'm sorry, Jesse, I don't want to upset you, but I have no one else."

Jesse knew that feeling all too well.

"Okay, who is the Speak?

The girl searched her thoughts for the best explanation.

“The Speak is the woman who speaks to me in my mind. She told me to tell you how sorry she is that she got you mixed up.”

Jesse had wanted to call the Supervisor, watch him take Kim away, crawl back into bed, close her eyes and forget. She didn't. "That was a big mistake to make." Jesse had always felt angry about being born a boy. And blamed herself, although she was not sure why? Hearing those words made her feel vindicated. It was God's fault, and she knew it.

"I need to show you the Colouring," Kim said, bending to reach her dirty, damp socks.

Slowly she undressed, removing her socks, pants, raincoat, t-shirt and finally, her underwear. She was too young for a bra. Her hands were shaking as she placed the clothes on the floor.

Jesse gasped.

The girl spun around and reluctantly showed Jesse her secret. Her body was tattooed entirely except her hands, feet, head, and an area above her belly where her breast will someday be. It was so vivid. The colours - blues, greens, pinks, reds, oranges and purples popped from her skin like fireworks exploding in the night sky.

Kim trembled. Jesse tried to make sense of the artwork etched into Kim's soft skin forever. There was an old-fashioned clock, its hands pointing to midnight; dark storm clouds that rolled across her shoulders and swirls of bright blue water that flowed over her buttocks. A colourful orange snake slivered down one arm. Jesse swore it hissed. Butterflies then flapped their bejewelled wings. Unicorns leapt through a field of daisies, and disgusting, ugly worms wiggled beneath scary skeletons. Demons burnt in a fiery hell and screamed.

The tattoo came alive. For a while, Jesse forgot to breathe. What she was seeing was not possible. She felt herself falling into the tattoo that had opened a chasm before her. Jesse steadied herself and shielded her eyes. It was so intense she turned away. Her stomach knotted into a tight ball, and she knew if she tried to speak, no words would come out. The tattoo was beyond anything Jesse had ever seen, even on TV. So too was Kim. Finally, Jesse caught her breath. "It's beautiful."

“It’s the Colouring. The Speak told my father to draw it. It's important, but I do not understand why? He was killed before he could finish," Kim explained.

Jesse was mesmerized and turned to look again. The colours exploded. It spoke to her. She longed to touch it, to feel its luminosity, its beauty and its permanence. It radiated warmth and moved with a kinetic hum. Did she imagine it? She reached out with her hand before retreating. She could not bear to touch it.

Kim saw the look of awe on Jesse's face but said nothing. She gathered her clothes that lay strewn on the floor. Jesse wanted to stop her, but she sensed Kim felt awkward and ashamed. But why? She was like an angel, fallen from a rainbow.

"Killed? By whom?" Jesse could breathe once more. Now Kim was dressed. She sat on the bathroom bench.

"The White Man. He wants to stop the Colouring. My father told me to find someone I can trust, and the Speak told me that you are that person."

Kim zipped up her rain jacket and checked in the mirror to see that her tattoo was covered before sitting next to Jesse. Jesse was 14. Love was something her favourite TV characters fell in and out of. Not her. No one told Jesse they loved her, and she wasn't even sure she knew what love was. All Jesse knew was that Kim made her feel something unfamiliar, a warmth that hugged her.

“And what are you meant to do when you find me?”

“I need to ask you to shave off my hair.”

The next night, Jesse shaved off Kim's hair. Jacks supplied scissors and razors they owned as part of a collection of bits and pieces they had gathered from shooting down drones. Jacks had discovered a way out of the Nest and taught themselves how to shoot down a drone using a slingshot and piece of concrete from the crumbling freeways. They hid the stuff in their room. Jesse had told Jacks all about Kim's tattoo and their talk. But not that the tattoo was alive. Jacks were too polite to ask Kim to see for themselves.

Jesse cut off as much hair as she could with the scissors, then made foam with some soap and lathered this into what remained of Kim's hair. It took three razors until Kim was as bald as the day she was born, revealing another beautifully drawn tattoo of a large golden key. It was the sort of key that lived in fairytales.

"It was the first Colouring,” Kim said. “It hurt the most.”

The key was enclosed by a circle of numbers and letters

33 58 48.5N ; -118 28 3.9W

 “Any ideas?” Jesse asked.

“My father said you would know what to do,” Kim pleaded.

"I wish the Speak would help," Jesse knew she was silly; Kim had already explained that the Speak didn't answer questions. They all stared. Kim shifted uneasily in the chair. She hated being gawked at.

“I know!” Jacks said and hurried off to their dorm, leaving the two girls alone.

Kim turned to Jesse. “I must look silly, with no hair.”

To Jesse, she was even more beautiful. "You look badass!"

Both girls giggled before Kim reached for Jesse’s hand, intertwining her fingers with Jesse’s. Jesse enjoyed the warmth of her touch and wanted the moment to last forever. She had never felt a touch so gentle. The boys soon returned, and their fingers slipped apart. Nothing was said.

Jacks fetched an iPhone. On their scavenging trips, they had found plenty of iPhones discarded by Lockers when new models were released. Jesse and Kim sat and watched the boys. Once the bars showed the phone was connected to the Nest's wifi system, Jacks opened the Maps App and typed in the numbers. Time felt like it was paused.

Jacks could see a wide strip of blue, then yellow, then a grid of lines indicating streets on the screen. Scattered randomly across the street map were different coloured drop pins for restaurants and hotels. Businesses closed on the East coast. The search had pulled up a map of the West coast. The coordinates tattooed into Kim's scalp led them to The End of the World Tattoo Parlour in Venice Beach.

Jesse had never looked at a map before. Until now, Jesse had no need to. Jesse had never left the Nest, and she didn't want to. Outside was diseased. Outside was dirty. Outside smelt. It rained and crawled with insects, the size of her hand. The rats were even bigger. Outside scared her, but now, she knew, she had to be brave. She had to go with Kim. "California?" Jesse saw the others turn and face her. "We can't go to California. No one can."

“What happens when the Colouring is finished?” asked Jacks.

"Then we will know how to save their world."

“Save the world from what?” Jacks added.

“The White Man. He is after me.”

The end

September 17, 2021 20:33

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.