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The Original Sex Gates
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-282-8
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Science Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 292 Pages
Published: August 2005
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

THE ORIGINAL SEX GATES NOVEL

This is the Sex Gates novel as originally written by Darrell Bain alone. It has a completely different ending, and it contains one more major character and several more supporting ones. In this original version, all questions are answered and all issues resolved in this one book. It is being published now in response to all the fan mail and interest the trilogy generated?and continues to generate. The Sex Gates has already become a science fiction cult classic and this book should be a significant addition to the sex gates universe.

Author’s Note

I wrote The Sex Gates in 1993 at a frenzied pace, completing the first draft in one month flat. In looking over my original novel and the one ten years later which includes Jeanine Berry as a collaborator, I am unable to judge which version I like best. That is for readers to decide. I can only say that going back over the old manuscript helped me recapture most of the original emotion and intensity with which I first got this notion into novel form.

When I revisited The Original Sex Gates, I was reminded of the two versions of Arthur C. Clark’s grand stories, Against The Fall Of Night and The City And The Stars. I have been reading both versions over and over for many years and continue to enjoy both of them to this day. I sincerely hope you can do the same with the two different versions of The Sex Gates.

The Original Sex Gates (Excerpt)


Chapter One

To say that the sex gates changed my life would be a gross understatement. They changed everyone’s lives in one way or another, whether they went through them or not. In my case, they not only brought an endless sense of fascination and curiosity, but finally provided a purpose and direction to my life, which had been sadly lacking up until then.

Before the arrival of the gates, I was more or less a perpetual student. I had already earned degrees in journalism and biology at North Houston College, but I was still taking undergraduate courses in psychology, business, sociology and anything else that took my fancy. I was completely uninterested in earning a postgraduate degree, but still found many subjects I wanted to know more about.

I should explain how I was able to afford to stay in school as long as I wanted while so many other kids had to struggle so hard after the last of the federal loan programs were cancelled. My grandfather, Mosby Stuart (whom my parents say I take after) was an eclectic jack-of-all-trades who was relatively uneducated but self-taught in a number of subjects, most notably, electronics. He was a visionary, a dreamer (or so I?ve been told) and wandered all over the South for years, seeking a niche and dragging his family along with him while he looked. He finally found a place for himself during the electronics explosion back before the Millennium. I?m not sure exactly what he all did, but I understand he made most of his fortune designing software for some of the earlier computers. After that, he mostly stayed home in east Texas, spending a lot of his time sitting in front of the keyboard of his computer or browsing through his vast library (Dad used to tell me stories of how he and Grandma argued over the cost of shipping his books every time they moved. Apparently, he could never bear to throw a book away). I wish I had known him better, but Dad was in the military while I was growing up and we didn?t get back to Texas that often. Then he and Grandma died together in a car crash in Houston one day while they were making the rounds of their favorite bookstores.

Grandpa’s will left the home and half his money to Dad. The other half of the money was split between me and my brother, Derek. I started drawing my annuity on my eighteenth birthday, just as I was ready to start college. It was really a tidy sum, especially for a young kid. I was able to afford a four-bedroom home off campus, a new car every couple of years and still had plenty of money left over. As to why I chose North Houston College when I could have afforded to go to almost any university in America, I?m not sure. Probably, it had a lot to do with the fact Dad and Mom had moved into Grandpa’s old house only thirty miles further north on the NAFTA highway when Dad retired, and in the two years before I started college, I grew to love that old place and the piney woods it was set in a few miles out from the little town of Ruston. Dad stayed home and did consulting work over the web and Mom gardened. They both contributed a lot of time to the antiquated public library, improving it enough so it became somewhat of a teenage hangout (which might tell you something about how much they changed it). I worked there summers and some evenings. It gave me a job and extra spending money, things not easy to come by for most of the local kids, but I?m not sure I really earned my salary. I grew up loving to read and letting me work in a library was somewhat akin to putting a rabbit in charge of a lettuce shop.

Anyway, when some of the towns and villages north of the old airport got together and incorporated after the Houston riots, they named their new city North Houston, and the state funded the construction of a new campus there to replace the one in Houston proper that was destroyed. The new college was close to home and that was where I decided I wanted to go. I?ve never been much of an adventurer, except through books and web games. Like I said, I take after Grandpa. If he had made his money early on, I doubt he would have traveled much either. Besides, by that time, I had gotten interested in science fiction (which earned me not a little teasing from my friends when the sex gates appeared) and Grandpa’s library contained a lot of old books I couldn?t find anywhere else, even as ebooks.

The house I rented was only a few blocks from the college campus, a post-millennium modular, solid on the outside but easy to change around on the inside. That helped a lot because early on, I let a few of my friends with money problems move in. The first few years, they came and went, but by the time I had earned my first degree, the four persons living there besides myself were more or less permanently installed. There was Don Wesley, my best friend, and his girl, Seyla Wickerson; Russell Borderlon, another real close friend, and Rita Hernandez, my main orbit who had been living with me for over a year, and myself, Jackson Lee Stuart. Grandpa was a civil war buff and Dad told me that he and Mom named me after his favorite generals, but only after he promised a hefty donation to the Disabled Veterans of America, Mom’s favorite charity. Mom and Dad had a disagreement about whether to call me Jackson or Lee, or so I heard from my older brother, Derek. Mom won, I guess, because as far back as I can remember, everyone has called me Lee instead of Jackson.

It was Don who got in trouble with the first sex gate any of us ever saw. It was on a Saturday afternoon during spring break, shortly after noon. The five of us had walked over from the house to the campus beanery for lunch. The food there isn?t anything to brag about, but it’s convenient and comes with the tuition, so we all ate there a lot. Besides, none of us are very good cooks. The campus was almost deserted because of spring break. Most of the students had headed for Galveston or Corpus Christi, or the ones who could afford it and didn?t mind the risk, on down to Mexico.

Don and Seyla were walking hand in hand in front of me and Rita, with Russell dragging along behind us, probably lost in thought over some physics problem. I was saying something innocuous to Rita, using it as an excuse to blow in her ear, when I heard a gasp from Seyla and "Hey! I?ll be goddamned!" from Don. I looked up just in time to keep from bumping into them. Russell did bump into me.

The sex gate had materialized almost on top of us, right on the grassy lawn at the east corner of the campus adjacent to Romana Street, where we always turned when going home from the cafeteria. Russell later told me its appearance was instantaneous so far as he could tell. One moment, there was only grass and a paved street in front of us, and the next, the path was blocked by the gate, a glowing green arch darkening to dull turquoise inward from the edges and toward a green mist in the center. Though it was only about twenty feet high and maybe ten feet across, we were so close, it seemed to tower over us.

"Where on earth did that come from?" Rita asked, puzzlement tingeing her voice. She had been looking down at her feet while I whispered in her ear. Now she was staring up at the gate with her pretty brown eyes as wide open as a frightened owl. For no reason I could understand, I slipped an arm around her waist.

"It just came out of nowhere!" Don said, awed. "I almost ran into it!" He stood with his hands on his hips, head tilted speculatively to one side as if he were examining a blackboard problem in one of his math classes.

"Impossible!" Russell exclaimed, coming back to earth. He shoved his muscular body past me and Rita to get a better view. He stared at the gate belligerently, as if it were defying some natural law.

"It did!" Don repeated.

"What in Christ is it?" Seyla asked. She had let loose of Don’s hand and crossed her arms protectively around her chest, flattening her breasts into the crook of her elbows.

"I don?t know, but I?m going to find out," Don said, in a tone suggesting the green arch was nothing more than a math problem he could solve. He took a step toward the gate, hands outstretched.

"Don, don?t! It might be dangerous!" Seyla cried. She reached out to grab the back of his windbreaker.

Too late. Don took another step forward, bringing him into the edge of a faint nimbus extending from the darker turquoise inner portion. For a second, I could see him there, frozen motionless, then he disappeared as abruptly as a popped soap bubble.

"Don! Come back!" Seyla screamed. She took a step forward.

I was standing with one arm around Rita and the other half-raised, intending to stop Don myself. We had been buddies for years now, as close a friend as I ever had. I heard Seyla yell and start to move. Don vanished and I grabbed at Seyla, just catching the belt of her toga. I yanked her backward.

Rita had her hands to her face, holding her chin and cheeks and grimacing like a child watching a close-up of a monster in a horror movie on a big wall screen.

Seyla struggled in my arms. Her coffee and cream complexion paled to a sickly yellowish gray, draining all the normally exotic beauty from her face. I shook her and shouted, "Seyla, wait! Wait a minute!" It was all I could think of to say. I?m not very fast on my feet in an emergency.

"This is impossible," Russell said again, but his dark blue eyes glittered with intense curiosity. He began edging around the side of the arch, as if by stepping off its dimensions he could measure it into a category of the physics he loved so much.

"Omigod!" a startled soprano voice screamed, seeming to come from the other side of the arch, suggesting to me that another frightened student like us was wondering where it had come from.

That thought lasted only a second. The voice came again, louder and shriller, with an overtone of horrified surprise in it. "My God, it’s turned me into a woman! Lee! Seyla! Where are you?"

I almost ran over Russell getting around to the other side of the arch. At its edge, it was less than ten feet wide. Three or four running steps, and I was around the corner. I ran full tilt into Russell, who had pulled to a hasty halt.

My momentum knocked us both to the ground. I rolled over and stared up at a totally naked woman. She stood upright, legs splayed and head bent to where she was staring down at her hands clutching both her breasts as if they were strange parasites suddenly attached to her body. Wavy brown hair blew around her shoulders.

I stared, stupefied, not by her nudity, but at the expression on her face as she raised her head, like a child too young to understand who had just seen her distorted reflection in a funhouse mirror. Abruptly, her hands left her breasts and began scrabbling through the bushy triangle of hair between her thighs as if searching for a wayward insect.

"Seyla, look what’s happened to me!" Her voice was starting to break, like a novice toastmaster making his first speech.

Seyla stood like a statue, staring at the woman as if she were being confronted by her first cadaver in anatomy class.

Rita was the first of us to react with anything resembling logical action. "Lee, get up and give me your jacket," she said, beginning to peel hers off. Rita thought that just because she was a psychology major, she should always act calmly. It was true that time, anyway. I got to my feet and shucked out of my jacket while she was wrapping her own around the woman’s hips. She grabbed mine and threw it over her shoulders. I don?t know what she would have done had it been later in the year when we wouldn?t have been wearing much more than briefs and tankers, but fortunately, it was still spring and a warm breeze was blowing in from the gulf.

"Don? Is that really you?" Seyla moved tentatively forward, like a cautious cat eyeing a new toy.

"It’s me. I?m Don. Oh, Lord love the Pope, look what that thing did to me."

That was an expression Don used a lot. I was still stunned, but hearing those words from the woman made me start to believe; that is, if we weren?t dreaming the whole thing. Besides, she resembled Don, like an eighteen year old sister might have.

"Let’s get her home, then figure it out," Rita said. "Come on, dear, let’s go." She began urging her forward.

"Don?t call me ?dear?, damn it. I?m a man!" Don, if that’s who it was, pushed her away, causing her breasts to pop into sight when she released her hold on the jacket. If she was a man, you sure couldn?t prove it by her anatomy.

Seyla finally broke out of her trance and helped Rita get the girl moving. The girl didn?t say anything else, but seemed to concentrate on walking, like a neophyte sailor on her first cruise in choppy seas. Her eyes were the same brown as Don’s had been but they darted around glassily, as if she was just coming out from a heavy doping session.

The few students we saw were all hurrying in the opposite direction, toward the new campus edifice. I looked back over my shoulder and it was still there. A small crowd was beginning to gather, coming from all directions. There was little traffic on the street, and what few strollers we passed on the sidewalk gave us no more than a cursory glance. They were used to seeing students in odd raiment; probably they thought the girl with the jacket tied around her hips by the sleeves and another hung over her shoulders was just the forefront of a new clothing fad.

Rita and Seyla stayed close to the young girl claiming to be Don while Russell and I hung back. Russell was so deep in thought, he stumbled occasionally. Well, I was thinking too, but I can?t claim my thoughts were all that profound. Mostly, I just wondered if it could possibly be true that Don had changed into a woman after being sucked into that weird green arch, and I have to confess, I was having guilt feelings that it had been him rather than me. How would I have reacted? I didn?t want to pursue that thought. Fortunately, I didn?t have to as our house came into view, sitting like a sanctuary on its spacious corner lot. We turned into the drive.

I told the door to open and Seyla and Rita hustled the girl into Seyla and Don’s bedroom. Russell snapped out of his reverie as we entered and we both headed directly for the bar. I didn?t usually drink much back then, even though I kept the bar well stocked for parties and such. Russell hardly drank at all, but he didn?t object when I poured us both a double shot of Jack Daniels and dropped a couple of ice cubes into the glasses. We sat down on the little lounger and propped our feet up, trying to pretend we weren?t straining our ears at mumbled sounds coming from the bedroom. I couldn?t make out what the girls were saying, other than a strained curse or two from the woman purporting to be Don.

A few minutes later, all three emerged. The girl claiming to be Don was dressed in a pair of Seyla’s loose slacks and one of his own shirts. Rita saw that Russell and I had glasses in our hands and left Seyla and Don sitting on the large lounger while she made them three of the same. Don?just let me keep calling her Don for the time being and refer to him as her, since that’s what she obviously was?Don gulped hers as if she had been wandering in the desert for a week. She finished what was in the glass, then sat slumped over as if trying to hide her new breasts behind the oversized shirt.

I was still trying to sort out my thoughts. Don had been my best friend for years. In most things, we thought along the same lines, liked the same books and web programs and helped each other in classes; him, when I struggled with math, me, when he had to write compositions or papers. We had grown close, almost like brothers. In fact, many times I had found myself wishing he actually was my brother rather than the one I had. I wasn?t comfortable around Derek, nor could I find much to say to him after he came out and told me and the folks he was gay. Every time I saw him, pictures would form in my mind of Derek bending over a man with the guy’s dick in his mouth?or worse. It made me queasy.

Russell’s blond eyebrows creased in a frown. He looked at Don, glanced away from where she sat hunched between Seyla and Rita, then forced his gaze back to her. "Uh, Don, do you remember what happened to you when you went into that, uh, gate I guess we can call it?"

"I don?t remember a damn thing," Don said. "One second, I got close to the arch, and the next thing I remember is coming out on the other side like this." She looked down at herself, then got up and stalked over to the bar again. I couldn?t help but notice how her hips swayed as she moved. I looked away hurriedly.

By this time, I had abandoned the idea I might be dreaming. The whole scenario was just too clear and defined, too logically linear once the basic assumption of that gate, as Russell called it, was stipulated. I had two thoughts in rapid succession. "How do we know you?re really Don?" I asked. That was the first one.

"Et tu, Brute?" She looked pained.

As much as I loved Don, I thought it was something we had to consider. Maybe I had read too much science fiction, but I couldn?t help asking.

"Willy’s Arcade. The redheaded stripper," the woman said.

I blushed while Rita looked at me curiously. I had never told anyone about that episode except Don.

Seyla leaned close and whispered something to her. This time, she blushed at the new woman’s inaudible response. She looked over at us. "She’s Don, all right. I have to believe it now."

"Don?t call me she," Don said.

"I still say it’s impossible," Russell said. "Something like this violates all the laws of physics I know. Maybe we?ve all been hypnotized."

Rita shook her head, causing her thick black hair to dance around her shoulders. "I don?t think so. This isn?t how hypnotism works."

"How do you know?" Don asked, getting up and pouring another two fingers of whiskey. She almost dropped the bottle when she picked it up to pour.

"Remember, I took a course in clinical hypnosis just last semester," Rita said.

Hypnosis hadn?t been my second thought, but it was close enough not to matter. "Suppose some, uh, entity inside the gate stole your, or Don’s, thoughts and transferred them into another body?"

"I didn?t see any entity, and I?ll guarantee you that I?m still me, even if I am in a fucking female body," Don said.

Rita and Seyla both gave him an odd, almost angry stare, Rita more so than Seyla. He should have known better to say something like that, but I guess I might have too, under the circumstances.

"How can you guarantee that?" Russell said.

Don had downed three quick doubles. She leaned away from the barstool she had been propping her arm on and wobbled unsteadily. "Because I have to piss, goddamnit, and I don?t know how!" She looked almost ready to cry.

Seyla rushed over and led her back to their room, keeping an arm around her waist.

"Hey!" Rita suddenly exclaimed. "I wonder if there’s anything on the news or the web about this?"

I don?t know why we hadn?t thought of that sooner. I told the big wall screen to turn itself on. The first thing we saw as the picture firmed was a shot of a bright green arch, surrounded by policemen holding back a crowd. I noticed immediately from the buildings in the background that it wasn?t the same one we had seen on campus, not unless it had moved in the meantime. Then the first thing we heard was a news anchor telling listeners in a voice shaking with emotion of how a woman had entered a sex gate before police arrived and had come out on the other side claiming she had been changed into a man.

And that, of course, is how the term "sex gates" came into being. That news anchor named them without even thinking about it.