It hurts when I change shape, but the pain is delicious. I revel in it as my limbs extend, contract, contort … until I’m a giant or a mouse or a sweet little babe by the side of the canal on the edge of town, waiting for the clip -clop of the washerwoman’s wooden soles. When she finds me, she bends over me and coos, and then she puts me on top of the fresh linen in her basket and carries me home.
Later she tries to suckle me, because she lost her own babe to the plague recently. The moment I latch on I morph into an animal guise, growing large sharp teeth and I bite down hard! The washerwoman dies of fright; pops her clogs, you might say!
They came to the woods, the townsfolk and their priest, with bell, book and candle. Casting out all my demonic brothers and ghoulish sisters. Silly; that won’t work on me! Then they came with painted wooden placards called icons. Ha, the Virgin Mary! I hid from the purifying presence, submerged myself in the brook, peering through film-covered eyes, through the filth on the water’s surface, waiting until they thought they were done.
‘Lange Wapper’ I hear them call me, because I can stretch my legs so tall that I can pear into the windows of the houses all along the canal, my flat webbed feet shaped to float and slide over the surface tension. Time for revenge. Oh my … dear, you forgot to draw the drapes!
[Lange Wapper is a figure from Flemish medieval folklore. The legend centres around the city of Antwerp.]
[NaPoWriMo 2019 – day 15]
The results are in and are final; we have a shelf life, an expiration date. Mankind can live until the age of 122. This is the oldest any human being on this planet of ours will ever be.
The science is conclusive with scientists and researchers in agreement. Nanorobots (the same ones who fight our cancers, deliver our drugs directly to our tiny cells) have taken tissue samples in every nook and cranny. Rushing through red rivers in an alien landscape until they finally reached the small fibre nerves in our peripheries, the microscopic robots have mapped every cell in the human body, examined every mitochondrion and tinkered with these diddy batteries, which scientists believe are the master key to youth.
To no avail. Even the God molecule, tweaked and optimised for maximum potency, eventually leads to liver failure and the potentially fatal sloughing of skin. The only option left to us to prolong life as we know is the unaffordable-for-most solution of replacing every body part, each organ and natural device as it fails.
It is a conundrum to prolong life through mechanisation; we have reached the apotheosis.
Congratulations: you are a first-generation superhuman, a godlike pioneer, a full-body prosthesis with a mind linked to the cloud in row D. You sit and watch your great-granddaughter place flowers in a vase on top of a dresser at your side – she says they are your favourite, she says they are the same flowers you had at your wedding. You search your memory for information, but you can’t for the life of you recall the scent of the flowers, nor the sensation of holding your sweetheart’s hand.
You reply, ‘Are they?’
The boxes on the hillside weren’t meant to last. They kept out the spiders and mould for as long as they were cared for; eventually no one cared enough to sweep and polish and mend.
Like peeling paint on cladding, once-held ideas shed in slivers and revealed a void that used to be invisible to dream-led minds.
When a better way of being came into reach, the people left to live closer to the trees.
[This microfiction was first published online by Paragraph Planet.]