Saturday, March 19, 2016

Create a Creature, Stephanie Anderson

After the River 
by Stephanie Anderson 

My first memory is of waking up.

The room is dark, and black against black shadow shapes tell me I’m in a bedroom. Somewhere, water is dripping rhymically: drip, drip, drip. Like a faucet that hasn’t been turned off all the way. I listen to it for a long time. In the surrounding silence, the drips seem to get louder. But they move neither closer nor farther away, and their beat never changes: drip, drip, drip.

Where was I before I had fallen asleep? Had I been sleeping. The fog in my mind is dense, and I close my eyes to try to clear it. Nothing. I can recall nothing. Names, people, places. My mind comprehends words, and I can form them in my thoughts. I understand what I am thinking, but I can remember nothing.

The river.

Like the whistle and sudden burst of fireworks on a dark night, I am flooded with the memory of rushing water flowing over my body. My head bobs up on the waves, periodically breaking the surface. I’m struggling. And I can feel the presence of someone watching me. The water is cold, my body is weak, and everything goes dark.

And now I am here. 

Laying on my back, I look around with only my eyes, keeping my head and body perfectly still. Am I safe? I perceive that I am alone, but where? Turning my neck every so slightly, I make out a window to my right. The movement is painful, as though I’ve overused every muscle in my body. I realize no light shines through the window, so it must be night. This confuses me, as I can see perfectly. Black on black, grey on grey, each a shade of the other.

I test the other parts of my body, and panic settles in when I am unable to move. There is a heaviness on my torso, and I writhe to jostle it off, but nothing moves. I tell my mind to lift my right arm, but no movement follows. Looking down, I see not an arm, but a mangled form. No, not mangled, but several. Down the side of my body, there are 4 thin appendages stretching out, each bending at an elbow in the middle. Quickly, I assess the left side, and find a matching set of 4, mirror images of the right.

Somehow, this does not concern me. Once I see the new limbs, once I am aware, it’s as though they become connected to my synapses. I sense them, feel them, and am able to manipulate them. The movements are not yet involuntary, as I have to think the movement I want to make, and will it to happen. But peering at my side, I make a request, and the 4 left limbs clench and unclench. I practice a few moments more, and find I am able to bend each one individual, or several at once.

What has happened?

With the same slow consciousness, I force my body forward to a sitting position. I sense everything for the first time, somehow seeing, hearing and smelling in a way I never have before. Glancing down, I am taken back by a brown, hard shell before me. And it takes several moments to realize I am looking at, at least some part, of my body. 

What creature have I become?

Memories come back in pieces, of before the river, and a heat builds in my chest. He has ruined me, and he will pay, once I find him. I make demands of my body, inching my way off of the bed. This new foundation is unfamiliar, every bone, muscle, joint as bewildered to work as a newborn baby. I will find him. But first, I must take care of the hunger that has been building since my first moments awake. How long had I been unconscious, how parched of nourishment is my body?

I know not where to find food, and it becomes clear that this new form does not ache for former sustenance. There is a new taste upon my mouth, drawing saliva to my tongue. An iron flavor, tinged with rust, that makes my head spin and my spirit weak with hunger.

This new body yearns for human blood. 


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