Metamorphosis: Part III

a Series by Raquel Swann

As I trudge through the snow towards the mysterious man, I can feel my boots getting colder and wetter. My feet feel like they’ve been sitting in a bucket of ice for hours, and I’ve only taken a few steps! It was obvious these absolutely adorable boots were not made for walking around this frozen tundra.

I fight through the elements of nature, malaise, and exhaustion from the transformation, until I am standing directly over the stranger. I attempt to catch my breath and fall to my knees next to his motionless body.

I kneel beside him, place my hands gently under his body,  and slowly slide him to his back. I notice his face is full of lacerations and fresh blood. The color of his skin, underneath a thin sheet of blood, is a light shade of blue. It’s obvious that he had been wondering out here in the cold for a while. The snowfall is so dense I can barely see anything. I find myself staring at this person and he seems strangely familiar. I must hurry before this storm gets worse.

I try to lift him to his feet and he grunts. He looks at me for a moment and barely stands on his own strength. He is shivering and grabs my hand for support. I throw my arm around his shoulder and we make our way back for the warmth of the cottage. It is difficult to navigate our way back. I take a guess at the general direction so I start walking and hope for the best. We struggle through the blizzard until I notice the vague outline of the cottage. Just a few more steps. I hope he can make it.

Darkness has fallen by the time we reach the doorway. I blast through it and nearly take the large wooden door off its hinge. The man collapses on the ground right next to the fireplace. I drop to the floor immediately completely fatigued. I see some firewood near the fireplace and crawl to it and throw a few logs into the dying flames. I lie down upon the wooden floor and watch as the fire begins to crackle and return to life. I am freezing cold. I pull my boots off and toss them close to the hearth. I begin to warm up a bit and stare into space. I am way too tired to think or try to make sense of any of this. It shall remain a mystery, at least until morning. Watching the fire makes my eyes tired. I close them for a minute. Need rest…

It is some time later and I feel a little better. There is a blanket covering me. It must have been him. I look around and notice the stranger is sitting up, sprawled out, and relaxing in front of a roaring fire. He sits there as still as a statue, watching the dancing flames. His bare feet are inches from the heat. He’s turned in the opposite direction and I cannot see his face. I notice he is wearing my sweat pants and white t-shirt. The clothing I had on when I appeared before the old lady.

I sit up with my legs crossed on the floor and try to say something but he beats me to it.

“You truly are beautiful,” he says, his voice is deep and familiar.

“Thank you,” I say. His confirmation was extremely flattering. I haven’t exactly had much time to admire or see myself, yet. I try to slide over a bit to see his face but he looks away.

“Before you look at me perhaps we should talk first. Trust me, it’s for the best,” he responds again in a voice I am certain I have heard before.

“Okay, if you’d like. Let’s start with who the hell are you?” I say, as this puzzle begins to annoy me.

“Forget so soon? No doubt you recognize the voice,” he says.

“Yes! Damn, it is so familiar. I know you somehow, don’t I? From somewhere else, perhaps.”

He laughs. I can see his shoulders shake and he shakes his head.

“Are you making fun of me?” I say, taken aback and frustrated.

“I should be allowed to make fun of you after what we have been through together,” he responds without moving. He refuses to let me see him. Why?

“Enough of these games! Turn to me,” I yell as he has tested my patience for too long.

“Listen to me, Raquel. You need to know some things first. Please let me explain.”

“How do you know my name?” I am shocked. As a man, my name was Mark. Raquel was the name I had chosen for myself. There was no way he could know that. I never told anyone else, I think. I didn’t even tell that witch my name. Perhaps she knew and told him. She seemed to know a lot about me.

“We picked it together. Then you came here to the old woman. The very same old woman who tricked you into drinking her little formula and played to our desires. It was for her own agenda I think. But I can’t be sure about that right now.”

“Who the fuck are you?” I stand up and stomp around the front of the fireplace to face him. He doesn’t bother turning away this time. He looks me straight in the eyes and I feel woozy. I feel…

Some time has passed and he is kneeling over me slapping my face. I look into his familiar face again and nothing has changed.

“But how can this be?” I say as he smiles.

“You fainted. I, well we never fainted before. It is me, it just is. Don’t ask me how or why? That lady did a great job, wow,” he says as I shake my head back and forth trying to deny what I see.

“What happened to your face?” I ask. I am very concerned. He has lacerations all over his forehead, jaw, and cheeks.

“I don’t know. It is has something to do with this place. Where we are?” He speaks as if I had known more than he.

“I have no clue. But how can this be?”

“I don’t know. I am you before the transition. I am Mark. You know it, I know it. Let that fact of matter just be for now. No need to question it.”

He has a good point. I let go of logic and try to reason with my former self, “What do we do now?” I question.

“It seems like the winter has impeded our progress. But there is something more beyond those trees. It is a mirage or some kind of trick. They do not extend as far as we think. There is something more out there. Perhaps the answers are there?” Mark sits back down in front of the fire and awaits my reply.

“What is beyond those trees?” I ask as I too sit back down to enjoy the heat of the fireplace for however long we have left.

“There is a lake, Raquel. On this side it’s snowing and on the far side it looks as if it is as hot as a summer day. We could start there.”

“And the old woman?” I ask, wondering if he is thinking what I am thinking.

“She is the key to all of this. We must find her, again.”

He was thinking the same thing, after all he is me.