From my Flash Fiction Collection
It’s not easy living with a serial shape-shifter. Most people on Spegorus could change their physical form to some degree, but Peter had really never got the knack of it. His sister, on the other hand, had always had a real flair for transformation and over the years had developed a huge repertoire. Joanna could take on one of these alternative forms at the drop of a hat, while Peter struggled to change the colour of his hair (as she would joke at his expense).
Even as a very young child Joanna would transform herself into creatures from her story books, often at quite inopportune times. Peter could recall numerous occasions when a normal family trip out had dissolved into chaos as Joanna had suddenly reinvented herself as a six foot ogre or a fluffy pink flying pig or some other insane creature from her imagination.
Of course it was tolerated in a child – to a degree – but there were rules, obviously, for adults. If nothing else it was simply a question of good manners not to go changing into a giant mollusc in the middle of lunch.
That afternoon, however, Joanna had gone too far. Way too far. Peter had returned home with Gillian after a pleasant afternoon perusing the book shops and music stores in town. Peter and Gillian had a lot in common, including a love of reading and a dislike of creepy-crawlies. So when Peter opened the front door and invited Gillian in, the sight of a three foot wide hairy spider clinging upside down from the bannisters was an unwelcome, if not a downright alarming sight.
Gillian screamed. Peter cringed. Of course he knew it was Joanna, so apart from being vaguely repulsed he viewed the sight with relative composure. He put a reassuring arm around Gillian, but she pulled away from him and bolted through the front door and down the path.
‘What the hell d’you think you’re doing, Joanna? You know that’s an inacceptable form!’
Joanna’s spider antennae bent forward forming into two elegant question marks.
‘You are totally out of order. How can you be so mean?’
Joanna descended to the floor on a length of silk the diameter of a rope. She stood in front of Peter and opened her huge spider maw and yawned.
‘That’s it. I’m going to report you. But first I’m going to find Gillian.’
He turned towards the door.
‘I’m sorry, Peter, I was just bored hanging around the house…I’m sorry I upset your friend.’ Joanna wheedled in a little girl voice. ‘You won’t report me, will you?’
Peter looked over his shoulder to see a six year old Joanna in a pink party frock.
‘Don’t! Just don’t, Joanna.’ Peter seethed. He stormed out of the house slamming the door behind him.
Peter looked up and down the street. There was no sign of Gillian. He sighed and started walking away from the house, not really thinking, just walking. There was a small park at the bottom of the road. Peter often escaped here. He headed towards the lake and stared at the swans which were calmly sailing over the sunlit water. Peter sighed again and sat down on the bank of the lake.
One of the swans headed over to where he was sitting and waddled up the bank. Peter sat very still. Swans could be quite dangerous, he thought. If it was actually swan? He looked more closely. The swan winked at him.
The swan nodded slowly and moved closer. Her beak nuzzled at his neck. Suddenly Peter felt a shiver go right through him. His hands and feet were tingling. He looked down. The ground seemed to be moving towards him. He stretched out his arms. White feathers were spouting where his fingers used to be. He looked down. His trainers transformed into webbed feet. Peter shook himself. Gillian’s swan neck was encircling his.
Together they walked down to the water’s edge and launched themselves into the lake. Paddling through the sparkling water seemed like the most natural thing in the world. He turned towards Gillian. She opened her beak and spoke to him. His swan’s brain understood and together they started to paddle harder. Gillian took off ahead of him. Now Peter was flying with gentle flaps of his great wings.
‘Let’s do this together for a while,’ he thought. The thought came back: ‘or maybe a life-time?’
©2018 Chris Hall