In exactly 1 week I will be someone else.
My head will fall off, or rather, I will shed it, or more precisely the warmth from inside a casing of spun silk will liquefy it into running formations of bubbling amber.
For a brief time I will look like a melting candle.
I’ve known this since the age of five when my father took me to a safari park and explained at 40 I would metamorphasize.
“Why does this have to happen?”
“It’s natural. It happens to all of us.”
“I don’t think I want it to.”
“You won’t even remember it happening. We need to get you some new pants.”
I could see myself in the eyes of antelope, gleaming white scars infecting the darkened pupils.
Because of the upcoming transformation, I’ve had to quit my job.
I spent decades at a small desk, flickering fluorescence, forming the mountains in which the sculpted curvature of female anatomy took refuge.
On my last day I got a plaque and a basket of assorted nuts.
As I was walking out, Jim, who sat next to me, stood by the door.
Sweat stained his collar and I could see through his shirt, his bones nothing but swaying shadows.
“You won’t remember this, but, you really did inspire me most of the time.”
“I appreciate that.”
“I’m not going to let them do anything to your desk.”
“I don’t think you have a choice.”
“I’ll fight them.”
He locked pinkies with me, something I had seen him do before.
I’ve started secreting silk.
It’s softer than I imagined, milky webs climbing upwards, frayed fibers occasionally gleaming in passing sunlight.
I’m storing them in Tupperware containers inside my fridge for the chrysalis.
They’ve become fizzled apparitions, silhouetted coils eased by the breath of Freon.
I need to coat my apartment in newspaper, or rather, I’m told that newsprint supports the incubation process, keeping the cocoon warm.
I stop by the recycling plant.
Steel towers stretch towards the ceiling, tubes and wires running through their diamond torsos, pulsating in the humid hum of anxious electricity.
I step up to Joe, who I believe I spoke to on the phone.
The plant exists in his sweat, inverted dripping rafters tumbling in the glistening droplets running down his cheeks.
“This is all I got for now, but come back next week and we should have some more.”
“I’m not going to be here next week.”
“Well hell, twist my arm why don’t ya. Okay, here’s one more box, but it’s not the good stuff.”
“I’m fine with that.”
We hear a crash.
Gears stop, and the fluttering of panicked paper falls downward, cutting past swinging arms and landing on a pair of twitching legs lying underneath one of the machines.
Words bleed onto him, seeping into the denim, covering the faded stitching.
A crowd has gathered, hunched backs bobbing up and down as if feeding on the flesh of wood pulp.
Joe turns back to me.
“We got some grocery ads if you think that’ll help.”
My chrysalis is crooked.
Its oval shell leans slightly, the faint projections of surrounding newsprint littering its surface.
Stability is essential to the transformation process I’m told, and if not constructed properly, I could wind up deformed.
Jane has showed me pictures of some of the notable deformations from a library book she borrowed.
There is a greenness, melting swaths of frozen bubbles where limbs and eyes emerge.
I’ve known Jane for 5 years and have invited her for one last movie night.
She manipulates time with her aroma, dew-stained blossoms allowing me to exist in simultaneous eras, my face emerging from soil into the crispness of conjured memory.
I’m hoping we can have sex.
“Aren’t you scared?”
“I’m not really sure. Maybe a little.”
“It’s crooked you know. You need to even it out.”
“I should have enough silk by the morning for it.”
“I forgot to bring back your cape. Do you mind if I sell it?”
“Why don’t you come with me?”
“There’s a birthday party next week I really want to go to.”
“This is better than a birthday party.”
“Do you remember the name of that guy who said we could use his boat?”
The movie starts, Chaplin’s illuminated shadows filling our wrinkles, and the thought of us molding into one spiraling being sending me into the crackling ripple of pixilation.
My imagination has a scent, heat drenched summer and the flakes of freshly mowed grass.
I give Jane my look, a series of blinks letting her know if she wants, I’m ready for sex.
“I know just where I’m going to sell that cape.”
I need to burn my things.
A fascination with outdated tradition has led me to the backyard of my childhood home where I toss any remnant of my former self into a small fire.
Pictures, clothes, worn and bitten trinkets from a sock drawer mesh into shimmering clouds of jagged vapor.
The neighbors are curious silhouettes, slipping from the mounds of stained bedroom curtains and peering with eyes that reflect the pink horizon.
I move back inside and come across pictures of my father’s former self, the ones he was supposed to burn.
This is where he exists now.
I wonder whether he is trapped, a sustained anesthesia crystalizing his cries into the beach behind him.
The phone rings. It hasn’t rung in years.
“Is Henry there?”
It’s a woman.
“He used to be, but he changed.”
“Did you know him?”
“We had…a little.”
Her voice seems to be made of echoes, cavernous hardened flesh propelling sound into unseen machinations.
“Do you know where he lives now?”
“I’m not sure. I don’t speak to him anymore. I don’t know what he looks like.”
I place my thumb over my father’s face, seeing if his expression bleeds onto my nail.
“You have an interesting voice. Maybe we should talk again.”
“This is the last conversation we will have.”
“Well, if you happen to run into him, tell him I called.”
I’ve become water.
In an effort to anticipate my inevitable liquidation within the chrysalis, I’ve come to Robin Hill Pool.
I float just beneath the surface looking upward, watching limbs and clouds bend into the translucence of moist reality.
I turn and notice something at the bottom.
My arms seem detached as I move deeper, swirling blueness becomes my marrow, and the shadows of pumping distant legs fill the bubbly veins.
It’s an earring, and I bring it back to the surface.
A little girl in a one piece yellow bathing suit stares down at me, her eyes covered in the fizzle and pop of polluted sunlight.
She holds a watch in her hand and points to the earring.
“It looks a little big for you.”
“I’m helping my father get rid of it.”
“Is it his?”
“It was hers. The one who left us. My father says we have to forget her.”
I see the faintest glimpse of myself in her eyes, miniature moveable drops of a being growing in the film of her pupil.
“Was that hers too?”
“It was his. My father says he was worse than her.”
Everything has a slightly muffled sound now, a sustained droning pressure as if a shell has enveloped us.
She tosses the watch into the pool, its darkened body descending as a confused creature, hiding amongst the shifting formations of stomping ankles.
“Now, bring it back to me.”
I stand naked in my living room.
I rarely look at myself in this state, even in the shower I keep my focus on the surrounding tiles sweating exhausted grime.
I had potential with this body. I should have done more.
The chrysalis is complete.
I’ve measured and confirmed the dimensions, and have left a hole into which I will climb.
It’s a gaping mouth, the now dry strands of silk matted into the crags and ridges absorbing the surrounding pellets of floating dust.
This is the moment I lose control and instinct takes over.
I’m out of my body, watching myself walk across the room and climbing into the cocoon.
My small television flickers, projections of drooping mouths tasting the glue and thumb-stained newsprint.
The Allen’s are on trial for murder.
“And you’re saying you have no recollection of that evening?”
“It’s a bit fuzzy. I might have been there, but I, I just can’t remember.”
“Are you attracted to your brother?”
Sound takes form, emerging from the crackling static and moving towards the windows, the dying embers of electric breath moistening the panes.
I linger with one foot out of the hole, catching glimpses of the neighboring complexes, the amber shimmer of life sinking into the darkness of oblivion.
“So you admit there was a knife.”
“Can I have some water?”
“Why were you in bed with him?”
I lower my head, and sink into the hole.
My arm’s fallen off.
Strangely I felt no pain, and in fact, I watched it slide out of my socket for several hours.
The dome of the chrysalis projects scattered veins onto my body, the grip of light turning melting flesh into vibrant colors stretching into the elongated appendages of anxious blur.
Quickly, even more quickly than the books suggested, I’m becoming something new.
I’m looking at my face as it lowers into my hand, one eye at the center of my palm, staring back at the eye now dripping down my cheek.
My mind fights over sight, grasping for a point of focus in the mirrored realm.
Someone’s entered my room. Two, maybe three people.
I see their shadows through the cocoon, a brief thought that perhaps they possess no body, detached from their hosts long ago and now scavenging for the warm anchor of imitation flesh.
They speak in a muted language, where only single fleeting words of excitement are decipherable.
A sensation has come over me, somewhere between fatigue and irritation.
My eyes stabilize, and the two lines of sight watch my body corrode and crumble to the floor of the chrysalis, shimmering plumes of amber gas causing the flaking lashes to sway.
I bubble, the pool of myself giving off steam, my lone hanging eye tumbling and splashing so that I coat the walls of the cocoon, an awareness beyond sight that soon fades to darkness.
I see in echoes, reverberation outlining spaces that tunnel above and below me.
I think my television smashes.
I’m told this is coffee.
I sit at a booth in a diner, a word and location I have only been educated about in the last 20 minutes.
The place is nearly full, and the waving limbs of customers disappear into the shimmer of heat coming from an area called a kitchen.
Marie has been assigned to me.
She comes from an agency up town and helps people during the transformation process, which has just happened to me.
Her dark hair sticks to the sides of her cheeks, and my tiny reflections seem to leave the center of her pupils, mixing and disappearing into the splotches of color emanating from my blinks.
“We have to choose a name for you.”
“What do you suggest?”
“Well let me see…the agency would prefer something with a J. It’s a letter in the alphabet that we’ll talk about later.”
“What about cup?”
“That doesn’t start with a J.”
“Is there anything you’re partial to?”
“I can’t let myself get emotionally invested in the process.”
I reach into my pocket and feel something.
There’s a small bent picture of a woman, her hair blowing across her face and the word Jane scribbled on the back.
“What about Jane?”
“Hmmmm…why don’t we say James?”
My thumb caresses the picture, and I find myself momentarily in two places, the booth and the sizzle of bacon fat enclosed in a room littered with yellowing strips of torn paper.
I move slowly, the air taking on the consistency of water, my fingers causing the walls to ripple.
I notice Marie staring at me.
“Tomorrow you’ll walk a dog.”