Metamorphocis

1.

As Dr. Caroline Jane Dorsey awoke one morning from uneasy dreams she found herself transformed in her bed into a gigantic man.

She hadn’t overslept in seventeen years, and yet, somehow, it was nearly half past nine. She felt as though she’d drunk the entire 2004 Chateau Borglionoff rather than her customary and proper single glass with last night’s steamed broccolini and quinoa, though of course she had not. Her head pulsed. The sun seemed to pound at her through the layers of sheer linens, macrame, and air plants that hung in the window of her bedroom. Was she ill? She must be. She felt heavy, swollen, rough, hard, and… angular?

She had to get up or she would be late for the morning’s lecture. She hadn’t been late to a class in seventeen years, and she’d be darned if today would change that. It was Locke this week. She had tried, of course, to get out of teaching Early Modern this year, and yet Haberford had yet again cajoled her into it. Dreadful man. She had relented in the end when he’d threatened to let Geoffrey teach the course. She shuddered at the thought of him getting his knuckly, hairy, and painted paws on the freshmen. Oh he would just love to teach Locke, wouldn’t he. Personal identity, phaw!

Quarter til. She tried to stretch her feet, to get any momentum that might let her escape the delicately laced duvet that this morning seemed to be stuffed with lead. Her toes finally peeked out from beneath their comfortable prison. Though, wait, that was odd. She normally could never reach far enough for that. She must have pulled the covers up in her sleep. The sun knocked relentlessly at her eyelids. She tried to turn away from the intrusion, releasing a groan that —

The monstrous gutteration started her finally from the last dregs of sleep. What was that sound? The bed frame? The water heater? No, an intruder? Worse, a man?

Fully roused, she carefully, quietly, placed her feet on the ground. Something was still off — sick? No, she didn’t have time to be sick. Gently, hesitantly, she stood, breathing shallowly, eyes flickering between door and the phone. Perhaps she ought to call 911? She kept standing as she strained her ears for any sign. Maybe she’d imagined it. A hallucination. Sleep paralysis could cause such things. Though of course she hadn’t suffered a bout of sleep paralysis in seventeen years. She kept standing. The room lurched as her head rose higher and higher. What was happening? Everything seemed to shrink, the floor fell away. Vertigo crashed into her as her head kept rising, rising, a runaway trolley careening towards the ceiling. She nearly screamed but feared she would vomit if she opened her mouth, spots flooded her vision, the air grew thinner and thinner until, finally, blessedly, she came to a stop roughly six feet above the ground.

She tried to calm down, but the old t-shirt she’d gotten from the 2008 New Mexico Wymyn’s Music Festival was cutting off all her circulation. Desperately, she yanked it off her body. Air. Breathe. Coolness washed over her. She was Dr. Caroline Jane Dorsey, gosh darn it. Esteemed Willmington Chair of Philosophy and Director of the Janet Institute of Gender Studies. She would be calm. She was calm.

She raised her fingers to her temples, hoping to massage the oddness out of her morning but she froze. Rough granite-like digits assaulted her. These were not her fingers. Her fingers were long, sure, but as a pianist’s fingers, soft, delicate. These talons, for surely there was no other word for them, were hard, course, like sausages wrapped in sand paper.

Amazed, terrified, she tried to focus on the monstrous claws that had attached themselves to her wrists. Did human fingers even have so many knuckles? The nails were thick and yellow and uneven. Hair sprouted like steel wool from the rhinocerian skin, though somehow not in any clear pattern, from bulbous knuckles here, from patches of the back there. With growing horror, Dr. Caroline Jane Dorsey realized that the tufts of wirey mammoth pilia didn’t stop at the hands. It grew up her arms, creeping over crags of bone that jutted out at random angles from her once slender wrists, gaining density and thickness as it climbed up her now lumped and muscled forearms.

More tendons than could possibly fit an arm sprang up as she turned over what had once been her hands, veins branching blue and thick beneath the rough, mottled leather that had replaced her skin. She followed the rivers of ropey elephant hair that flowed over the throbbing hills that passed for biceps and cascaded in a torrent of black, curling wire down her chest. Her chest! No longer the sloping curves of womanhood but now a shapeless, vast, flat of flab and hair. Small, wrinkled nipples drowned uselessly in the flood of fur that flowed down, down, over bumping, carved valleys of stoney flesh, past the belly button, and…

She nearly fainted. Of course, she hadn’t fainted in seventeen years, and she would not let today change that. She went to sit on the bed, though had failed to predict the endless free fall it would require. Her stomach fled up into her throat and… something moved below, though she refused to feel any more specifically than that.

Before she could think to stop them, the hands went up to push her hair back, a nervous tick she’d never been able to completely quash. The sanding disc pads of the fingers searched higher and higher for hair, great earthworms hunting prey, but despite how much hair covered every other inch of the body, they found none. After miles of empty, rough flesh, the fingers finally found some hair growing almost at the very apex of the head, though not enough to pull back.

Her phone buzzed ten o’clock. Class started in half an hour. Not nearly enough time to shower, dry her hair, and dress. Though maybe she could skip that today and make it there if… She laughed. Go to class? Like this? No. No, she would let this body shrivel and die in this bedroom before she let anyone see her like this. Can you imagine what Geoffrey would say? That disgusting embarrassment to the department. He would probably even offer to “help” her. How dare he? Pretending all those years, getting her to even call him her friend, and then one day he just shows up to a department meeting in an Old Navy blouse that strained to cover his massive barrel of a torso and saying he goes by “Amber” now? And everyone else just going along with his delusions? His assault against everything she stood for? No. No, she could not let him see her like this.

Surely this was a dream. A nightmare. She would go back to sleep, she would wake up five minutes before her 6am alarm, she would do her peloton and drink her yerba mate and everything would be as it should. She would teach her class on Locke and then catch the train down to Providence for the convention and… oh god! The convention! She was supposed to present her paper on Kantian Constructionism and the Male Gaze as Violence today! But that was impossible! No. No! This was a dream. She would go back to sleep and wake up and everything would be as it should.

She laid the hulking body down into her bed. Shoulders that were far too broad couldn’t get comfortable against her pillow. Every swallow sent that thing in the neck bobbing up and down. Everything was hard. Could a rock even get comfortable? She closed her eyes, counting down from one hundred as her mother had taught her when she was a child. 99. 98. 97. 96. Her throat tickled. 95. 94. 93. Had her uvula changed as well? 92. 91. Tickle. 90. Tickle. 89. She coughed, and it sounded as though a bullfrog had died in a subwoofer. The roaring bass shook her entire house. Surely flocks of birds were scared into flight outside and the neighborhood dogs were cowering beneath couches. 91. 90. Her toes were poking out from under the blanket. 89. 88. 87. Her knee itched. 87. 86. 85. Could you die from itchiness? 84. 83. 82. She relented, and let a hand go down to scratch it. 83. Dirty thick fingernails hit course hair. 83. On her knee. 83. her knee. 80. No. 79. She could not think anymore about the body. 76. Sleep. 75. She had to sleep. 71. This was a dream. 72. This was a dream. 71. This was a —

The doorbell rang. She sat up, blood rushing down as she nearly slammed the head into the ceiling. No. No no no. She checked her phone. Eight missed calls. Six texts from… Haberford? Why —

“Caroline, are you ok? The students said you weren’t in class.”

“Caroline, let me know if you are all right.”

“I’m seriously worried, you have never missed a class before, please text me.”

“I’m going to come over and check on you if you don’t answer your phone.”

“I’m coming.”

“I’m here, answer your phone.”

Oh no.

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