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Fiction Issue III

[BRIAR RIPLEY PAGE]

HELP! MY BODY IS CHANGING!

A Guide For Young People

What follows is the transcribed text of a crumpled-up pamphlet found caught in a street gutter near Ipswich, Massachusetts. The pamphlet was printed in black and white on cheap paper, using a small, single-spaced serif font. It also contained clip-art illustrations of fish, frogs, mermaids, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. It did not list its authors, and its origin could not be traced. Attempts to visit the website alluded to in the pamphlet turned up a 404 error message.


If your family member, friend, doctor, or trusted member of the clergy has handed you this pamphlet, CONGRATULATIONS! That means they have noticed, or you have confided, that your body has begun to undergo some very exciting changes! Though these changes may seem confusing, embarrassing, and even scary at first, we hope to help you embrace them, understand them, and stand tall with pride. Only very special people are lucky enough to have the experience you’re about to embark upon— an experience of COMPLETE TRANSFIGURATION from one form of life into another!
             
Let’s begin with a few frequently asked questions:


01. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?

A combination of genetic and environmental factors have caused your body to begin its transfiguration. The exact gene sequences in play are complex, and still poorly understood. They may be inherited from one or both parents, or, in rarer cases, they may spontaneously arise through mutation. Some recent studies (using the information gathered via programs such as 23 and Me) indicate that up to 2% of the North American population has one or more genetic abnormalities correlated with the transfiguration process. Obviously, the actual instance of transfiguration is far lower: current estimates place it around 0.001%, meaning about one in one hundred thousand individuals will metamorphose at some point in their lives.

However, these individuals aren’t evenly spread out. In some parts of the country (and the world), transfiguration is completely unheard of. On the other side of the spectrum, one small New England fishing town boasts a whopping 38% transfiguration rate!  

 This means it is likely that the genetic abnormalities must be present in specific combinations, and an affected individual exposed to one or more environmental “triggers”, in order for transfiguration to occur. Everything from diet to childhood trauma to in-utero exposure to heavy metals has been proposed as a potential trigger, but the truth is, we don’t yet know why some people with these genes transform while others do not.  

And the larger truth is, it doesn’t matter why it happens.  

There is nothing wrong with you. There is no way to stop you from being what you are. Do not let others’ ignorance persuade you to think of yourself as a tragedy.  


02. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING NOW? 

Most people begin to change between the ages of 20 and 30. However, the process can begin as young as twelve and as old as fifty! As mentioned in the previous point, no one is sure exactly why it happens, or why the point of onset varies so widely.  

If you’re having trouble processing what this means for your future, or for the life you’ve already built, counseling can be very helpful. A list of highly recommended, affordable professionals in all 50 states can be found on our website (www.friendsofthedeepones.org).  


03. AM I GOING INSANE?  

You probably feel like it! The brain is just another part of the body, and your entire body is undergoing massive shifts in form and function. Most people report some temporary psychological distress: mood swings, bizarre dreams, insomnia or hypersomnia, even mild visual and auditory hallucinations! These will pass.  

You will come out the other side feeling more stable and secure than you’ve ever felt before. Your senses will all be sharp and clear, your mind no longer muddied by human socialization and human prejudices. You will be no more insane than a snail, a shark, a squid, or an albatross.  


04. CAN I REMOVE MY FACIAL SCALES OR COVER THEM WITH COSMETICS SOMEHOW? 

Plucking your scales will cause painful wounds that may become infected, and the scales will grow back anyway. Covering scales with makeup can induce hives and rashes; we don’t recommend it. You cannot hide for long.  


05. WHY DO I LOOK SO DIFFERENT “DOWN THERE”?  

When your transfiguration is complete, you will have a fully developed, fully retractable penis; a likewise retractable ovipositor; internal testicles, a vagina, ovaries, and a uterus. You will be able to perform any sexual/reproductive role with any partner you choose. For protection and streamlining while swimming, your genitals will fold into the sealed pouch between your legs when not aroused. The pouch may look like an abscess or unusually large, inflamed sore in early development; this should not last more than a few months.  


06. DOES THIS MEAN I’M GAY? 

If you want to call yourself gay, sure! If not, don’t worry about it.  

If you’re invested in identifying as exclusively “heterosexual” or “straight”, you’re going to have to let that go. There can be no straightness where there can be no pretense of binary sex, where there is no hierarchy of gender, where everyone is considered an aberrant freak by the untransfigured masses.  


07. WHAT SHOULD I TELL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY?  
  
Be honest. Tell them you are changing into a new creature. Tell them you are not as once you were. Tell them you are entering into a life of wonder and glory. Tell them they shouldn’t mourn you, or fear for you. Tell them you will still love them, even if you must part ways. Be sympathetic but firm. Tell them you are sorry about their distress, but it is not your problem. Tell them that if they try to stop your transfiguration, or detain you, they will fail. And they will be your friends and family no more. And they will feel the sting of your needle-teeth and venomous spurs.  
  

08. HOW CAN I FIND OTHERS LIKE ME?  

If you’re lucky, you already live in an area with a prominent transfigured community. Find out when and where they hold support groups, community meetings, and swimming competitions. If you’re too nervous to participate at first, just show up and introduce yourself to one or two of the regulars.  

If you’re in a more isolated (or landlocked) area, try our website’s forums and mailing list (www.friendsofthedeepones.org). We can even set you up with a one-on-one “digital mentor”!  


09. IS THERE SOMETHING I CAN DO TO MAKE MYSELF CHANGE FASTER?  

Your enthusiasm is charming, but unfortunately, the transfiguration process cannot be hurried any more than it can be halted. Like human puberty, it proceeds at a different pace for everyone. Be patient. Eventually, you will become the creature you are in your dreams of the deep water.  


10. AM I STILL GOING TO BE “ME” WHEN I’VE CHANGED ALL THE WAY?    

Are you the same person you were when you were a child? If you did not undergo transfiguration, would you be the same person you are right now in ten years? Time alters us all, no matter what. You will have all your memories. You will have many of the same likes, dislikes, and personality traits. If you are very attached to dwelling on land you may even choose to continue with a similar lifestyle, although we do not recommend this.  


11. WILL I LIVE FOREVER?  
  
No living creature is immortal, save arguably certain single-celled organisms. You will still be vulnerable to violence, accidents, some diseases, and the increasing problems of ocean acidification and pollution.  

However, if you avoid all these hazards, you can expect to live a very, very long time.  

 —-  

THE TRANSFIGURATION PROCESS TIMELINE: WHAT CHANGES YOU CAN EXPECT, AND WHEN  

The first signs of incipient transfiguration are sleep disturbances, dreams of the ocean, and an itchy, persistent rash on the face, neck, shoulders, and back that does not respond to topical treatments or antibiotics. Extreme thirst and a distaste for bright light may or may not accompany these symptoms.  

The next stage, which can occur within months or after several years, comprises gradual hair loss, bulging eyes, and a grayish or greenish cast to the skin, especially in areas where the rash is present. At this stage, some cases of transfiguration are misdiagnosed as hyperthyroidism. Once the skin has taken on its gray/green tone, changes usually proceed in the following order:  
  
2 WEEKS-- 2 MONTHS: Development of scales on the face, shoulders, &c. Formation and thickening of webs between fingers/toes. Formation of translucent, retractable membranes over eyes.  
  
2 MONTHS—8 MONTHS: Development of gills on neck. Genital pouch begins to form. Genital growth begins. Loss of typical human teeth. Loss of original eyelids.  
  
6 MONTHS— 2 YEARS: Webs between digits are fully formed. Gills are fully formed and functional. Venomous spurs begin to develop on ankles and wrists. Carnivorous teeth grow in.  
  
1 YEAR— 4 YEARS: Genital reformation complete. Venomous spurs are fully formed and functional. Hair loss complete. Spiny crest on head/back may or may not develop.    

1.5 YEARS— 5 YEARS: Transfiguration complete. Transfigured individual feels strong instinct to take to the sea. Transfigured individual comes home.  

 —-  

HOME
  
The transfigured are amphibious, and can live on land indefinitely. But lingering in the air is bad for the skin, bad for the bones, bad for the heart.  

Typical humans may tolerate the transfigured; they cannot ever understand them. They feel an instinctual revulsion towards those with scales and gills. Few can fully overcome it. Even parents often turn on their children, and siblings on their siblings, and spouses on their spouses. Some are merely rejected, left to complete their metamorphosis without shelter or support. Others are beaten, institutionalized, subjected to barbaric “medical treatments” that do not and can not make them “human again”. Each year, a few are murdered. Cut down before they have a chance to crawl to the water and breathe it in.  

Relocate to a coastal region while you retain the ability to pass as a typical human. Driving a car with fully webbed hands and feet is difficult, and taking a plane or bus in an advanced stage of metamorphosis is risky for obvious reasons. Once you dwell within sight of the ocean, nature will take its course.  

When you have grown into your final form, when dreams and your flesh call you to the ocean with every pulse of blood and every footstep, you should go as quickly as possible. Only suffering waits in the world you’ve known.  

 —-  

YOU WILL BE LOVED  

We can promise you this. We are waiting with our gray-green, shining-scaled arms outstretched. We are waiting for each and every one of you. We see the beauty in your eyes like lemons protruding from too-small sockets, the beauty suffusing clear and painful venom, the beauty of black needles in gum and nailbed. We are legion. Our bone houses, coral houses, garbage and rot houses are all for you. All for us. We’ve made places no primate can reach. We’ve set a table down in the dark, and we are each of us the guest of honor. 

Don’t be afraid. Let the changes fall upon you like a wave upon the shore. Let them sweep you out to the secret places where we wait.

[about]

Briar Ripley Page is the author of Corrupted Vessels, a queer, surreal Southern Gothic novella from swallow::tale press, and Body After Body, a self-published ero-guro dystopian novel. Their shorter work has appeared in places like Moon Park Review, beestung, and the Blood Orange Poetry Tarot. Briar’s online at briarripleypage.xyz.

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