I never needed a spirit world-
His absence is felt in every space.
Ephemeral but vivid, I see him in the mirror.
Is it okay to enjoy things?
Small things I like vanish.
Games we played, I can’t play without him.
Occasionally I feel I’m not alone.
No corner of this house is without memories.
Empty room; inexplicably locked from the inside.
I wait patiently, stretched out under the sun with my eyes trained on the stone I’d laid out. By the time I see her approach, the sun has begun to warm my skin faster than the wind can carry it away.
The grass seems to part ahead of her gliding form. Her skin is decorated with countless gems; they draw a tapestry of black and brown down her that ripples with dappled light. When she ascends her sun-warmed throne, she tastes the air and looks about as though fearful of mutiny. None comes, and she relaxes herself into a loose knot.
There is an almost magical quality to the air as she rests; sunbeams bathing the ground in a golden hue. I find myself entranced, and envying the simplicity of her life.
I reach out to her, as though my hand could reach between worlds.
First she recoils, and then she strikes: she buries her fangs into the meat of my hand with lightning precision. All of herself is dwarfed against my arm, and she is dragged with it when I pull away. In that moment I feel powerful despite the pain; I could easily, should I intend, do to her what her venom was unlikely to do to me.
Then, as she returns to her pedestal, I begin to tremble and pale; my hand sends shocks of electric up my arm; and my blood roars in my ears and behind my eyes. She tongues the air as she watches me, and I’m drawn in by the enticing lull of sleep. Laying down amongst the grass, it seems to grow into a forest. Then there’s nothing.
When I awake, everything is dark. I feel the strange sense of being neither warm nor cold, and there’s the press of something heavy down my back. I can feel the pressure, but it has no texture. I reach-
I cannot reach behind me.
I command myself to move, and so I do, but my body does not raise. I pursue a glimmer of light ahead until I can push out into it.
The world is not the same. I am dwarfed by the grass, and the soil and trees are dark green or olive - not brown. My vision clouds and clears with the pulse of my heart, but is never quite clear enough. I try to blink to clear it further, but instead it blurs more intensely, like fog on glasses.
I raise my head and look to the right, to see the glow of heat. It’s sprawled out over the stone, immense and in crisper focus than anything else; the shape of a person. So big that its arm is larger than-
I turn back and see my tail - no, that’s wrong, my body - stretched out behind me; serpentine and elegant, and very much not what it’s supposed to be. Looking at the shape again, I see it move and I realise: he is me. It’s hard to be sure, my vision as it is, but his figure is so familiar.
As me, it shifts and falls forward, sprawling flat against the ground and flattening the grass. I flick my tongue as I approach, from an instinct I can’t quite understand, and when I take it back in I smell leaves, grass, trees, sweat, salt, breath, and something bitter and artificial. Something inside screams at me to move, that there is danger - so much danger - and my eyes even clear a little, with a sensation that’s somewhere between tensing and relaxing. I hold my ground regardless.
Its head turns, and its eyes meet my own. It blinks, and jolts as though with surprise. It blinks again - I can see its warm skin flash over cool eyes - and shudders. Through its lips pokes a tongue, which touches the ground clumsily; it judders again and pulls back into a twisted crouch, flicking its tongue angrily.
Slowly, its fingers begin to twitch. They clench and relax in a basic gripping motion, like a newborn, and the arm moves just a little at the shoulder. I watch it - in my body - figure out how to move.
Somehow, in all this strangeness I am able to accept that she - the snake - is now me, and that I - a human - am now her.
Her mouth opens.
“Aaouuuuggghh.” I feel the sound within my jaw more than I hear it.
She stops and shakes her head, looking down at her feet, and looks for all the world like she will stand. Suddenly-
She barely misses me as she falls to the ground. I glide away hastily, unable to still my need to move any longer, and I feel a light grip on my tail and her sound in my jaw as I leave the glade behind. In the woods I feel myself slowing and growing tired. I am not cold - neither am I warm - but I grow weaker in the dark and shade. I taste mould, fungus, rot, leaves, urine, feces, feathers, blood.
That night, I sleep without sleeping; simply stop moving and wait. I do not eat the next day, or the next, but on the third I do. I catch a small bird digging for a worm, and loathe how its beak scratches as I swallow it down.
I don’t know where she-who-is-me has gone. I wonder about her ocassionally, and if she prefers the life she’s found. If she managed to survive it. I wish for it back and miss its simplicity, for now I’m always busy: hunting, or basking, or running.
I visit that rock when I can, but there is no sign of me.
I’m in quarantine again.
House-bound; stuck; alone.
But I’m not alone now: everyone is here too. I hear from old friends, new friends, groups I’d given up on.
In a week, I probably do more than I could in a month before.
It’s not accessibility when everyone uses it.
Not special needs when everyone needs it.
I miss going out: it scares me again.
I fear when my needs are once more ‘special’.
But I want to leave.