They both looked at each other in horror. “Surely not?” cried Hilda. The question was answered almost immediately by a series of loud cries and running footsteps upstairs.
“That’s the staff corridor!” exclaimed Hilda, making for the door. She was stopped by Matey.
“Hilda – you’re almost indecent; that nightdress is tiny on you. Have you a dressing gown?”
Hilda threw open her wardrobe door, paused, and then gasped. “My clothes!”
Matey came and stood next to Hilda, looking into the wardrobe; her eyes widening. All Hilda’s elegant dresses and skirts had been replaced by men’s shirts and trousers and there were several belts hanging on the back of the door.
“This just gets more and more ridiculous,” said Hilda, but finding a rather nice crimson men’s dressing gown, she pulled it off the hanger and wrapped it around herself. Further noise and slamming doors upstairs alerted Hilda and Matey to their task and they left Hilda’s room and ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time. They reached the staff corridor and came to an abrupt halt.
“We don’t want to panic people if we’re the only ones,” gasped Hilda, “though judging from the noise, I doubt we are.”
They stood at the entrance to the staff corridor, unsure of how to proceed; they didn’t want to alarm other members of staff if this weird situation was affecting just them, but at the same time they needed to find out if any of the others were the same. From a half open door came a low Irish accent. “Would you look at me?” it cried “Sure, how can I have gone to bed as myself and woken up looking like…..well I don’t know what?!”
Hilda and Matey looked at each other, “Biddy,” gasped Matey. They made their way quickly along the corridor and pushed open the door.
“Argh! No!” Biddy tried to close the door to prevent them entering, but Hilda got her foot into it just in time. “Biddy, let us in, please. It’s happened to us too.”
On hearing Hilda’s deep voice, Biddy tentatively opened the door and Hilda and Matey entered to find a slight, dark haired, young man standing in front of them, sporting a rather neat Poirot-esque moustache. At the sight of this, Hilda nearly laughed out loud; it was so unexpected, yet suited its owner perfectly. Another figure in the room was examining themselves in the mirror in horror. Matey went slowly over, looking at the reflection in the mirror.
“Kathie??” she said. That person turned round and nodded, tears running down her face.
“Matey?….Hilda?….what’s happening to us?”
The four of them stood there staring at each other in silence; explanations were beyond any of them at the moment.
“I have no clue what is going on here this morning. This has got to be some weird and awful dream…..and hopefully we’ll wake up soon and everything will return to normal,” said Hilda, "But until then, we’re just going to have to try and deal with this…….crazy situation.”
The door was flung open and two more young-ish men came in, terror on their faces.
“Oohhhhhhh……you too then?” The first looked suspiciously like Peggy Burnett, with a shock of short curls on top of her head, while the second, taller figure, looked deeply embarrassed to be sporting a rather luxurious beard.
“Nancy?!” asked Kathie, wonderingly, while that lady (or was it man?) nodded slowly, rubbing her chin with her hand. A snort erupted from Matey, who tried to subdue it as Hilda glared at her. It was in vain though - Matey shook her head and then burst out laughing.
“We all look……ridiculous,” she gurgled “This is SO stupid. If we don’t laugh we’ll cry – and I have been!”
Nancy broke into a roar, and Biddy and Kathie quickly joined in.
“Your…..your moustache!” gasped Matey to Biddy, “And……you!” as she turned to Nancy.
“The beard does rather suit you!” chuckled Hilda “Though I’d never have thought it!”
The rising bell jangled and all of them abruptly stopped laughing and stared at each other.
“The girls!” gasped Peggy “What if this has happened to them as well? How on earth are they going to react?!”
Hilda thought quickly. “Right. Gwynneth, you stay here and head off the other staff as they wake – in fact, go now!” as various cries and gasps could be heard from elsewhere down the corridor. Matey scuttled out of the door as fast as she could, banging on doors as she went. Hilda continued, “We’ll take the dormitories. One or two each. Don’t go in initially – just hover outside until we can figure out the state of things.”
“But…..what if it’s just us?” asked Nancy, “What if the girls are still girls? They’ll have a fit when they see us.”
“If it is just us, I have NO idea what we’ll do, but come back here as quickly as you can and we’ll formulate a plan. The prefects can look after things while people are dressing. They’ll go down to their common rooms for a few minutes before Fruhstuck anyway, so we’ve got a little time. Come on.”
Hilda led the way out into the main school and the five of them made their way towards the dormitories.
As they approached the first dormitory, a loud clear boys voice could be heard, “Come on Conrad, hurry up. You’re going to make us all late for our baths.”
Hilda whirled round to face the others with wide eyes, “Did you hear that? Conrad? What IS going on?”
A teenage boy emerged from the nearest room carrying a towel, evidently on the way to the bathroom. He had dark hair, dark eyes and fine features, and was looking distinctly sleepy. At the sight of Hilda and her colleagues though, his eyes widened.
“Um…..Mr Annersley, is something wrong?”
Hilda blanched at these words, “No…..um….Conrad…. we were just coming to check the……er……hot water. Apparently it’s not running properly.” Hilda was thinking fast, and was well aware her excuse wasn’t up to much. “Now hurry off to your bath.”
Conrad nodded and went off towards the bathroom, casting a curious glance behind him at the huddle of staff standing in the corridor.
Hilda recovered first and quickly hustled the others back to the staff corridor. When they returned there, she leaned weakly against the wall, breathing fast.
“They…….they’re all boys!” gasped Biddy.
“And……they seemed to know who you were…….as Mr Annersley!” said Kathie, “How…..what…….I mean….this is just….crazy – or are WE all crazy?”
Hilda slid down the wall to the floor, groaning as she did so. “I can’t work this out…..this is just getting weirder and weirder…… They seem to be acting completely normally. I don’t understand this at all,” she said weakly.
“Come on Mr Annersley, up you get,” said Nancy, with a wry grin on her face as she hoisted Hilda to her feet, “I have just what you – we – need. And Hilda, please, no comments……I’ve hardly had any of it. Medicinal purposes and all that.”
They crowded in to Nancy’s room, and that person rootled about in a drawer and produced a bottle of brandy. She produced a clean glass and poured a small amount in, and handed the glass to Hilda, who raised her eyebrows at Nancy.
“I think you need it,” said Nancy, reddening slightly, “And no, I don’t make a habit of keeping alcohol in my room, you don’t need to worry.”
Hilda swallowed the drink, gasping slightly as it burned her throat slightly and began to warm her. Nancy poured more brandy and passed the glass to Kathie, who also drunk her share. “Yeuch! Ooo, that’s strong!”
The glass went round the room; all the staff having a small measure of the brandy, and all were feeling slightly more steadied as a result, when Matey appeared with several more horrified looking staff – Sharlie, Rosalie, Ruth Derwent and Jeanne de Lachennais, who was exclaiming loudly in very quick French as she made her way towards the others.
“Hilda….where are you….oh – Hilda?” asked Ruth as she tentatively approached Hilda, who nodded. “What…..I mean… how….,” she gulped.
Peggy spoke first “The girls – they’re boys!” After loud exclamations from Matey and co., she broke in, “And, they seemed to be acting completely normally – as if they’d always been boys and nothing was wrong. One of them – Conrad – called Hilda Mr Annersley as if it was the most natural thing in the world.”
“So……so…….our school is suddenly full of boys…..and they seem to be used to having male staff – us – in fact…..but we’re in some strange nightmare parallel universe where we’ve all morphed into men overnight?” Nancy said.
“It seems that way,” said Kathie, weakly “Oh….this is just…..horrible. And who on earth was Conrad?”
“I thought he looked suspiciously like Con Maynard,” said Hilda, who had recovered herself a little by now. “Ruth, Jeanne – you others, I think you need some brandy. Nancy?”
The glass again did the rounds of the newcomers. “Brrrrr!” cried Rosalie, “Alcohol for breakfast. Who’d have thought it?”
“Who’d have thought anything today?!” said Biddy, “Nothing is as it’s supposed to be, so brandy for breakfast is par for the course, I think!”
“We need to hurry,” said Hilda desperately. “It will be Fruhstuck soon, and none of us is dressed.”
“What will we wear?!” interjected Peggy with a cry, “We can’t go around in dresses and skirts. The…..boys…..will think we’ve gone mad!”
“I think if you open your wardrobe you might find that problem is solved. My clothes have all been replaced by men’s suits and trousers – see if yours have too.”
Nancy wrenched open her wardrobe door and gasped. Gone were the skirts and jumpers, replaced by button down shirts, trousers, and a selection of ties and jackets.
“Oh my………” she breathed. “Look at this!”
“I suggest we all get dressed, and then go down to Fruhstuck. The…..er….pupils will be expecting us. It seems it’s a normal day for them even if we’re in some strange alternate world. I’ll try and think of what to do next as we eat. But for now, lets try and act normally,” said Hilda.